Saturday’s game against the Buffalo Bills will be dominated by the Pittsburgh Steelers starters, playing at least a half, even spilling into the third quarter. It’s the dress rehearsal, the last time the starters will play significant snaps before the regular season. It chances the dynamic for the backups – the last game before the roster gets trimmed from 90 to 75 .
But for either group, just being healthy and available is the first step, allowing coaches to evaluate them. And there are three Steelers who are struggling to do that. Missing the Bills game would be just another missed opportunity.
Mike Mitchell: Mitchell reportedly twisted his ankle during Wednesday’s practice. The severity is unknown but in over a year with the team, Mitchell has rarely, if ever, been healthy. He started 2014 on the PUP list, played through groin injuries during the season, was sidelined with a hamstring for a large chunk of training camp this year, only to be nicked again by this ankle injury. Tomlin would not rule him out for Saturday’s game.
He’s missed valuable reps in Keith Butler’s tweaked defense. I’m sure the team will continue to be cautious with him, just as they were with his hamstring, to avoid another nagging injury like last year, but getting to play against Buffalo will give him one last tune-up, and then a week to rest, before the season.
Josh Harris: Harris has always looked good on paper, he’s as physically fit as anyone on this team. But camp injuries have followed him, and he hasn’t dressed since rolling his foot against the Jacksonville Jaguars. A self-proclaimed minor injury seems to be at least a little more than that.
It’s only allowed Harris to have a total of two carries in three games. It’s nearly eliminated the evaluation for a player who will serve as DeAngelo Williams backup the first two weeks, and a player who is danger of getting shuffled down to the practice squad when Le’Veon Bell returns.
C.J. Goodwin: Goodwin appeared to make it back to practice yesterday after dealing with an unknown injury. As Shakim Phillips continuing to shine, catching the go-ahead touchdown against the Green Bay, putting Goodwin in danger of missing the practice squad.
Though his playing will be limited to a half due to the starters snaps, getting him healthy and back in the conversation is critical.