It is a very real possibility that the Pittsburgh Steelers could enter Sunday’s game without their quarterback, top running back, and top two wide receivers. They will even be down the number two tight end that they brought into the season, but at least they will have their starting offensive line and number one tight end intact.
Not that that has necessarily been saying much lately. The line has struggled in the past two game to hold back the superior talents of Aaron Donald and Myles Garrett in the last week. And, oh yeah, now they’re not going to have Maurkice Pouncey, who will be serving a suspension.
So that will mean B.J. Finney versus Geno Atkins, and I’m not sure how I feel about that, but it’s not a great feeling. Add on top of that the fact that Finney has been more successful when starting at guard than at center.
The offense that the Steelers may field on Sunday could as much resemble their scout team as it would its starting offense. Mason Rudolph will be at quarterback, as has been the case for most of the year, rather than Ben Roethlisberger, for starters.
It’s highly unlikely at this point that James Conner is going to be able to play. Benny Snell is still out, as well. Outside of Jaylen Samuels, the other two running backs on the 53-man roster have spent most of their careers on practice squads.
And then there are the injuries at wide receiver. Donte Moncrief’s finger helped get him released. Ryan Switzer is already on the Reserve/Injured List. Now both JuJu Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson are in the concussion protocol.
Who will Rudolph be throwing you, aside from James Washington? Well, I’m glad you asked. He will have at his disposal the services of Tevin Jones—who just made his NFL debut last week—, Johnny Holton—who just caught his first pass on 13 targets in Pittsburgh—, and Deon Cain, who was on the Reserve/Injured List his rookie year and on the Indianapolis Colts’ practice squad before they just signed him.
And Holton started the year on the practice squad, too. So that’s literally three players who are scout team-level talents who could be the offense on Sunday. This is starting to remind of the 2016 season with Cobi Hamilton and Demarcus Ayers. Only worse, at least outside of Washington.
And just pile on top the fact that they haven’t had a run game without Conner and Snell. They shouldn’t expect to find one with Samuels, Edmunds, and Kerrith Whyte, who was just plucked from the Chicago Bears’ practice squad. How will they move the ball, even against a team as bad as Cincinnati? It’s hard to imagine right now.