The Pittsburgh Steelers are dealing with their own injury problems so I’m sure they aren’t sending any sympathy to their Week One opponent. But Washington’s backfield is as unclear as ever for the Monday night opener.
Ten days ago, starting running back Matt Jones was diagnosed with an AC sprain in his left shoulder in the team’s second preseason game. The team sounds optimistic about his regular season status but that’s what you would expect internally.
#Redskins will keep Matt Jones out for the rest of the preseason, Gruden says. He has already made "great strides" in recovery.
— Washington Redskins (@Redskins) August 22, 2016
Jones was the clear-cut starter coming off an up-and-down rookie season, averaging just 3.4 yards per carry and suffering from fumbling woes that ate away at his playing time. But Alfred Morris was let go and the team didn’t make any marquee moves at the position in the offseason.
What they did do was draft Georgia’s Keith Marshall in the 7th round of this year’s draft. Despite an injury-marred college career, Marshall blew up at the Combine, turning in a 4.31 40. He has been battling for the top backup spot but suffered a sprain elbow in the tune-up game and is expected to miss three weeks, per CSN Washington.
That would make him highly unlikely to be available for the Steelers game.
If Jones misses entirely, or is limited, Tulane UDFA Rob Kelley will be the next man up. Kelley, had an entirely nondescript college career and workout, never surpassing 450 yards rushing in a season and running a 4.68 at his Pro Day. But he profiles as a bruiser back at 5’10, 226 and averaged 4.3 yards per carry Friday night.
Washington is attempting to revive their rushing attack after averaging a tied-28th worst 3.7 yards per attempt last season. They also had the second most fumbles in the NFL with 11.
The Steelers’ run defense was shutdown last season and even with a less than 100% Cam Heyward, should have little issue making Washington one-dimensional.