2016 South Side Questions: Will Any Healthy Defenders Get Rest?

The regular season is here, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are taking their practices at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While the real work is now upon us, there is plenty left to be done.

And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well. The offseason is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is lasts all the way through the Super Bowl for teams fortunate enough to reach that far.

You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the regular season and beyond looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they wade through a regular season in which they are, at least supposed to be, among the favorites to win the Super Bowl.

Question: Will any healthy players on the defensive side of the ball be given an afternoon off against the Browns on Sunday?

During his pre-game press conference on Tuesday, Head Coach Mike Tomlin said that he would look into giving some of his key players rest in the Steelers’ season finale, which holds no playoff implications, as they are already locked into position with the third seed, a position they can neither hurt nor improve.

But he also said that players who are dressed will play, and the reality is that only seven players can be deactivated for the game—normally we’re wishing there were fewer inactive slots. The names likely to get a rest on the offensive side of the ball are obvious. But who might get a day off for the defense?

We already have to consider that players such as Stephon Tuitt, Sammie Coates, and Ladarius Green, who are dealing with injuries, are not going to play. If we also assume that Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell, and perhaps Maurkice Pouncey are also given a rest, then, well…there is your inactive list.

Of course, not everybody who dresses necessarily has to play, either. But it doesn’t help matters that Anthony Chickillo is dealing with an ankle injury. A week after being inactive, is Jarvis Jones going to log a bunch of snaps in the regular-season finale?

What about Mike Mitchell, who has been banged up? Robert Golden is dealing with an injury too. But Jordan Dangerfield played the last two snaps of Sunday’s game for him. Might he start for Mitchell? And how about Lawrence Timmons? I’m sure Vince Williams would love to get back on the field. I would bet Tyler Matakevich wouldn’t mind playing on defense either.

There isn’t really another cornerback on the roster who is suited to playing in the slot, so William Gay might be out of luck. Of course, these are all or mostly, likely, just wishful thinking. Tomlin might play all of his starters on defense for the majority of the game. It is the ones getting hit that need protecting more than the ones doing the hitting, anyway.

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