The Pittsburgh Steelers will play the New England Patriots Sunday night in the AFC Championship game and based on the team’s Friday injury report, it looks like several players who have missed recent games are likely to return this weekend. The Steelers Friday injury report included three players listed as questionable and two of those players might be inactive again on Sunday. The list of seven inactive players this week will likely include at least five healthy scratches and below is my prediction of what head coach Mike Tomlin is likely to turn in ahead of the game kicking off.
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.
Zach Mettenberger – No surprise here, right? Mettenberger will once again be a healthy scratch Sunday being as he’s the No. 3 quarterback. The last time the Steelers played the Patriots way back in Week 7, Mettenberger was dressed as the No. 2 quarterback as starter Ben Roethlisberger missed that game with a knee injury.
Brian Mihalik – The Steelers big backup tackle will once again be inactive Sunday as a healthy scratch. Like Mettenberger, Mihalik dressed for the Steelers Week 7 game against the Patriots as starting right tackle Marcus Gilbert missed that game with an ankle injury.
Ladarius Green – Even though he ended the week listed as questionable after practicing in a limited capacity on Friday, it’s hard to imagine that Green will, be allowed to dress and play Sunday against the Patriots. Green, who hasn’t played since Week 15, might be available to the Steelers should they advance to the Super Bowl on Sunday.
Fitzgerald Toussaint – Even though it appears as though Toussaint has gotten over the concussion he suffered in the AFC Wild Card game, it’s hard seeing him dress Sunday against the Patriots. If that winds up being the case, cornerback Justin Gilbert will likely once again be one of the two deep kickoff returners against the Patriots with wide receiver Sammie Coates likely joining him as the other one.
Al-Hajj Shabazz – Shabazz was inactive last Sunday in the Divisional Round playoff game and with Gilbert likely to get Toussaint’s helmet again against the Patriots, it’s likely he’ll be a healthy scratch again in the AFC Championship game.
Johnny Maxey – With it looking like defensive end Ricardo Mathews will be able to play Sunday against the Patriots after missing the last two games with an ankle injury, Maxey might very well find himself on the Steelers inactive list as a healthy scratch.
L.J. Fort – This seventh and final inactive spot is tough to decipher now that it looks like linebacker Anthony Chickillo will also return Sunday after missing the last two games with an ankle injury. While not expected to play any snaps on defense, Chickillo was a big contributor on special teams before going down injured. If Chickillo is given a helmet on Sunday, another linebacker is likely to sit. With veteran linebacker James Harrison nursing a shoulder and triceps injury, I doubt Jarvis Jones will be inactive so that leaves Arthur Moats and Fort as the only two legitimate choices. Both Fort and Moats played on special team while Chickillo was out so it really could be either player that winds up down. I flipped a coin and it came up Fort.