Even though the Pittsburgh Steelers figure to have three players miss today’s game due to injuries, that doesn’t make it more likely for rookie wide receiver James Washington to dress. There is a realistic chance that he is a healthy scratch, at least based on last week.
During the season opener, Washington, a second-round pick, played only 11 of 85 offensive snaps, the majority of them coming in late-game situations, and he was not targeted even once. Veteran Justin Hunter saw over 50 snaps and five targets, officially, not including a would-be touchdown pass that was negated by penalty.
One of the reasons that the team was able to dress both Washington and Hunter was because Vance McDonald, a tight end, was out with an injury. The Steelers often only carry three tight ends, and when they do so, all three almost always dress, so when McDonald was injured, there was no positional replacement.
That won’t be the case for today’s injuries. Starting tight guard David DeCastro will be replaced by B.J. Finney, and with Finney in the starting lineup, Week One inactive Matt Feiler will get a helmet to serve as the gameday interior reserve lineman.
Likewise, Cameron Sutton will start at left outside cornerback in place of the injured Joe Haden, and with Haden moving to the inactive list, Coty Sensabaugh, another cornerback, will dress instead. Tyson Alualu’s spot along the defensive line will shift to another former inactive, L.T. Walton.
If the Steelers intend to dress both Washington and Hunter again, then it will have to come at the expense of another area of the roster. It’s possible, though I might argue unlikely, that they sit Darrius Heyward-Bey, but there are other options.
There was a game or two last season in which tight end Xavier Grimble was made a healthy scratch. With McDonald just returning from a significant foot injury, however, they probably want the extra body there.
The best bet would be to make another safety inactive, since they dressed five last week. Based on the playing time from the season opener, the likely inactive would be Nat Berhe, who only saw nine snaps on special teams on the kickoff units. Jordan Dangerfield played nearly three times as many snaps on special teams.
It’s not so easy as it was a year ago with JuJu Smith-Schuster. During his rookie season, he was the Steelers’ starting kick returner, so he had to dress. Now that helmet has to go to Ryan Switzer, who also returns punts.
It’s likely that the team will be strong incentivized to dress Washington, however, because they want him to be their number three receiver. My guess is that that could be bad news for Berhe.