The (10-5) Pittsburgh Steelers will host the (1-14) Cleveland Browns on Sunday at Heinz Field to close out their 2016 regular season. With the AFC North and No. 3 seed in the conference already locked up, the Steelers will play a lot of their younger players against the Browns. In addition to the three players who were ruled out for the game against the Browns the team’s Friday injury report, four other healthy offensive starters are expected to be held out of action as well. That should make this week’s inactive list easy to predict and thus here is my weekly attempt at projecting those seven players for Sunday’s game.
Game inactives are officially announced 90 minutes before kickoff, so make sure you check back at that time to see the names of the players for both teams who will be sitting the game out.
Ben Roethlisberger – It’s been a long, long time since Roethlisberger has been a healthy scratch for a game. This will be the second time this season, however, that he’s been inactive for a game as he also sat out the game against the New England Patriots with a knee injury. With Roethlisberger presumably down against the Browns, we should see third-string quarterback Zach Mettenberger dress as the backup to starter Landry Jones.
Le’Veon Bell – Like Roethlisberger, Bell will be “preserved” Sunday against the Browns and that means we’ll likely see DeAngelo Williams get his first heavy game-action since he was sidelined with a knee injury. Additionally, Fitzgerald Toussaint is likely to get quite a bit of playing time in the Steelers backfield to close out the 2016 regular season.
Maurkice Pouncey – Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin indicated Tuesday that Pouncey will likely be another player held out against the Browns and that means we’ll likely see B.J. Finney make his first career start at center. Finney played some center earlier in the season in the Week 9 loss to the Baltimore Ravens after Pouncey suffered a thumb injury early in that contest. Finney will likely be backed-up by tackle Chris Hubbard.
Antonio Brown – Even though he stands to lose the 2016 reception title to Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald on Sunday, Brown is expected to be held out of Sunday’s regular season finale. With Brown being the team’s regular punt returner as well, it will be interesting to see if rookie wide receiver Demarcus Ayers is given the opportunity to replace him on special teams.
Robert Golden – After injuring an ankle in last Sunday’s win over the Ravens, Golden was unable to practice this past week and that led to him being ruled out for the game against the Browns on the team’s Friday injury report. Golden being sidelined should ultimately result in fellow safety Jordan Dangerfield getting some defensive snaps at some point against the Browns.
Stephon Tuitt – Tuitt, like Golden, was also ruled out for the game against the Browns on Friday as he’s still attempting to overcome the knee sprain that he suffered early in the Week 15 game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Like last Sunday, we’ll likely see defensive linemen Ricardo Mathews, L.T. Walton, Javon Hargrave, Daniel McCullers and Johnny Maxey all rotate throughout the game against the Browns.
Ladarius Green – While Green was able to practice on a limited basis two times this past week, he sat out the team’s Friday practice and was ultimately ruled out for the game against the Browns on Friday. Green, who suffered a concussion in the Week 15 game against the Bengals, will hopefully be ready to play in the AFC Wild Card game.