The Pittsburgh Steelers will play the New England Patriots Sunday night on the road to kick off their 2019 NFL regular season and if you’re like me, you’re counting down the hours until the game begins. As usual, I will attempt to project the seven inactives for every Steelers game of the 2019 season and below is my best guess as to which seven players won’t be given helmets Sunday night against the Patriots.
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.
Sean Davis – Davis officially ended the week listed as doubtful for Sunday night on the team’s injury report due to an ankle injury that he suffered during the third preseason game. Davis failed to practice all week so he’s very unlikely to play against the Patriots. With Davis expected to be inactive Sunday night, safety Kameron Kelly is expected to start in his place.
Joshua Dobbs – Dobbs, the Steelers backup quarterback to starter Ben Roethlisberger all last season, starts the 2019 regular season as the team’s No. 3 quarterback on the depth chart. This means that second-year quarterback Mason Rudolph will open the 2019 regular season as Roethlisberger’s backup and thus Dobbs is expected to be one of the Steelers seven inactive players Sunday night against the Patriots.
Zach Banner – Banner was on the Steelers inactive list for all 16 games last season and he’s expected to open the 2019 regular season on it as well as one of two offensive linemen not expected to dress Sunday night against the Patriots. The Steelers generally only like to dress seven offensive linemen in total every week so baring any injuries, Banner is likely to be on the inactive list quite a bit in 2019.
Fred Johnson – Like Banner, Johnson, a rookie undrafted free agent this year out of Florida, is also expected to be an inactive offensive lineman Sunday night against the Patriots. Johnson is a guard by trade, so he’s likely be on the Steelers inactive list quite a bit in 2019 barring any injuries to other offensive linemen taking place.
Isaiah Buggs – The Steelers usually only dress five defensive linemen for games and if that holds true again on Sunday, Buggs, one of the team’s three sixth-round draft picks this year, will more than likely be the odd man out and thus one of the team’s seven inactive players against the Patriots. Buggs being inactive should result in backup defensive tackle Daniel McCullers getting a helmet along with the team’s other backup defensive lineman, Tyson Alualu.
Justin Layne – The final inactive player for Sunday night is a bit of a tough guess. It’s likely to be a rookie, but which one? With only five total wide receivers, three total tight ends and three true total running backs on the week 1 53-man roster, it would make sense for rookies Diontae Johnson, Zach Gentry and Benny Snell Jr. to all dress. It would also make sense for the Steelers to dress Adeniyi as a fourth outside linebacker and rookie inside linebacker Ulysses Gilbert III and especially the latter as he looks like an above-average special teams player. Adeniy, however, hasn’t played since the Steelers first preseason game, but wasn’t listed on the injury report this week just the same. Layne worked as a gunner along with fellow cornerback Artie Burns most of the preseason. That said, there are likely a few other options to play the gunner role Sunday night should Layne sit with fellow cornerback Cameron Sutton possibly being one of them. By process of speculation elimination, I will go with Layne as my choice for the seventh and final inactive for Week 1.
Diontae Johnson – The Steelers promoted wide receiver Johnny Holton to their 53-man roster on Saturday so that’s a good sign that he will be active Sunday night and play mainly on special teams. His promotion is probably a good sign that rookie wide receiver Diontae Johnson might be one of the seven inactive players. Skipper was waived to make room for Holton.
Tuzar Skipper – Assuming fellow Steelers outside linebacker Olasunkanmi Adeniyi has fully recovered from the meniscus surgery he had performed in mid-August; he will likely dress and play Sunday night against the Patriots. The Steelers will likely dress just nine of the ten total linebackers on their Week 1 53-man roster and that will likely result in Skipper, a rookie undrafted free agent out of Toledo, being inactive Sunday night against the Patriots. Skipper will likely be inactive quite a bit during his rookie season barring a few injuries to other linebackers.
UPDATED TO REFLECT SATURDAY AFTERNOON TRANSACTION