Notre Dame has a chance to have the defensive line it started the season with intact when the Irish (7-2) travel to play Pittsburgh (4-4) on Saturday night.
Coach Brian Kelly said Tuesday that nose guard Louis Nix III, who missed the last two games with tendinitis in his knee, and defensive end Sheldon Day, who re-aggravated an ankle injury against Navy last Saturday, should be able to play with defensive end Stephon Tuitt against the Panthers.
Day has missed games against Michigan State and Oklahoma because of the injury he suffered in the third game of the season against Purdue.
"We're looking at this weekend getting at least those three guys on the field at the same time," Kelly said of the linemen. "At what level at health, we will see where it is. … I think we are getting close where we may get all three of those guys on the field at one time."
Kelly said Nix has been coming in at 7 a.m. to do conditioning work and has carried around a jug of water to stay hydrated as the senior prepares to return to the workload he had before missing the last two games.
"I normally would be concerned about the volume, and maybe I am a little bit, but he has worked really hard," Kelly said of Nix. "He's really worked hard in these last couple of weeks to stay fit. … I think he's really committed to trying to give everything that he can. He's committed himself to getting back here and doing the best he can to help our football team."
Kelly said Nix underwent platelet-rich plasma treatment for the tendinitis, but the nose guard will need surgery down the road.
"It will require the same surgery (freshman running back) Greg Bryant had. It will require attention," Kelly said. "After the USC game, he was in real pain."
Kelly also said linebacker Ben Councell suffered an ACL tear against Navy and will have surgery in the next couple of games, and safety Austin Collinsworth, who suffered a neck strain last week, had a clean MRI.
"(Collinsworth) had some neck issues," Kelly said. "It has to do with soft tissue in joint areas, and he will not practice today. We are hopeful that clears up, but I would say he's questionable (to play against Pitt) right now."
On offense, left guard Chris Watt appears to be on track to be able to play this weekend after missing the game against Navy because of a PCL injury.
"There's a feeling of stability without that PCL, and you have to make some adjustments along the way in terms of how that feels," Kelly said. "We really only got a chance to do some things with him on Thursday, last week. He felt OK on Thursday, and then Saturday in pregame when he really cut it loose, he felt deficient. In the sense that he didn't feel like he could do some things and didn't want to let the team down.
"I think with a full week of practice, which he will practice today, we think he will be able to make the accommodations to be able to play at the level that he needs to play at."