The Pittsburgh Steelers will play the Buffalo Bills Sunday night at home 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 at Heinz Field against the Bills.
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.
JuJu Smith-Schuster – While Smith-Schuster claims he did not have a setback on Thursday, he did go from starting the week likely to play against the Bills Sunday night to officially being ruled out for the contest on the Friday injury report after failing to practice earlier in the day. This will mark the fourth consecutive game that Smith-Schuster has missed since getting injured in Week 11 and we’ll have to wait and see if he can make it back for the team’s Week 16 road game. He might have played his last down of 2019 unless the Steelers make it to the playoffs. That knee of Smith-Schuster’s just isn’t ready yet.
Vance McDonald – The Steelers top tight end suffered a concussion last Sunday and while he was able to be a limited practice participant on Thursday, he failed to work on Friday and thus was officially ruled out for the Sunday night game against the Bills on the team’s injury report. McDonald seemingly has yet to clear conclusion protocol. With McDonald sidelined, look for rookie tight end Zach Gentry to dress Sunday night against the Bills to back up fellow tight end Nick Vannett.
Paxton Lynch – Lynch remains the Steelers No. 3 quarterback on the team’s depth chart and that’s not a bit surprising. That’s going to remain the case moving forward barring injuries. Lynch has only dressed for one game this season and that was in Week 6 when he backed up Devlin Hodges due to Mason Rudolph being sidelined for that contest with a concussion. Hodges will start again on Sunday night against the Bills at Heinz Field and Rudolph will back him up again once again.
Chukwuma Okorafor – The Steelers young tackle hasn’t been active for very many games this season. The last time he did dress for a game was way back in Week 10 against the Los Angeles Rams, a game he started. There’s seemingly no path for Okorafor to get a helmet Sunday night against the Bills so expect him to be one of the team’s seven inactive players for a fifth-consecutive week.
Tuzar Skipper – Skipper has been inactive for every game since returning to the Steelers 53-man roster in November and he’s unlikely to begin dressing on Sunday night against the Bills. With outside linebackers Anthony Chickillo and Olasunkanmi Adeniyi both expected to dress once again and serve as backups and special teams contributors on Sunday night against the Bills, look for Skipper to once again be one of the team’s seven inactive players.
Artie Burns – Burns hasn’t dressed for the Steelers last three games and last Sunday he was even a healthy scratch as rookie cornerback Justin Layne was given a helmet over him. That’s not a great sign for Burns entering the final few games of the regular season so it’s easy to predict he’ll likely be one of the team’s Sunday night inactives against the Bills. If for some reason Burns does get a helmet Sunday night, it would likely come at Layne’s expense.
Kerrith Whyte Jr. – Running back James Conner ended the week listed as questionable on the Steelers Friday injury report. He was also listed as a full practice participant all three days so that makes him a tough player to gauge when it comes to Sunday based on his early-week comments. Conner’s tone earlier in the week on his radio show when he talked about his potential return to the field Sunday night against the Bills wasn’t great and he certainly didn’t sound like a player that knew he would play against the Bills. I really do not know which way this last inactive will go. Assuming Conner does play, either Whyte or Trey Edmunds are likely to be down. Edmunds, however, is a core special teams player. Whyte, however, while he has returned some kickoffs, is not seeing the field on offense much. I’ll “guess” that Conner will be up Sunday night and that Whyte will down. That said, I really won’t be surprised if Conner sits. Edmunds also has a tiny shot at being the odd man out if Conner is a go. If Whyte is down, either Johnny Holton or Diontae Johnson can return kickoffs.