According to a report from Aaron Wilson, at least one player who was released today is going to be brought back by the Pittsburgh Steelers because the team intends to place a player on injured reserve after today, which would allow him to be designated to return later in the year.
Last year, the Steelers did this with Cameron Sutton, their third-round rookie cornerback. He was placed on injured reserve after final cuts, and then the team brought back linebacker Steven Johnson. That team, we knew who would go on injured reserve, but not who would be re-signed.
Now we’re in the opposite direction. Nat Berhe is reportedly the player that the team is going to bring back. But we don’t know who is going to be sent on injured reserve. We do know who the options are going to be, however, because we know who has been dealing with injuries, so let’s run them down, in no particular order.
Morgan Burnett: This one, unfortunately, would make a lot of sense. The Steelers currently have five safeties already on the 53-man roster and intend to bring Berhe back, which would give them six. That’s an overabundance, clearly, which makes it sound pretty reasonable that a safety would be the option to go on injured reserve. Burnett participated in the first two preseason games but missed the rest of the preseason after that with an injury.
Vance McDonald: McDonald suffered a foot injury early in training camp and missed the entirety of the preseason. General Manager Kevin Colbert said that he anticipated the tight end would be ready for the season opener, but they’ve been wrong before, and he clearly has had issues returning from injuries.
Xavier Grimble: He also missed time after having surgery on his thumb, but you generally know the timeline in such a controlled situation. They expected him back by the opener, so I would be very surprised if it’s him. And if it were, Bucky Hodges probably would have made the team.
Mike Hilton: He suffered an apparent knee injury after colliding with the return man on a punt to open the second preseason game and he has not returned to the field since then. He was reportedly seen jogging before the final preseason game, but that’s not saying much.
Olasunkanmi Adeniyi: Left the last preseason game with a hamstring injury. There was no update on his status. Frankly, this would be the best overall option in terms of its impact on the 2018 season. Not that I’m pulling for a rookie UDFA to deal with an eight-week injury. You would think Keion Adams would have been retained if this were the case though.
I believe these are the realistic candidates. Some veterans such as Antonio Brown, Ramon Foster, and T.J. Watt have deal with injuries almost all of training camp and beyond—none of them played in the preseason—but all have returned to practice, and there’s no way any of them would be put on IR if they were expected back in fewer than eight weeks.