The Pittsburgh Steelers had the opportunity to dress 48 players for tonight’s game. It is unclear why they chose to dress only 47 players, and I suspect that there is unlikely to be a good reason for it, either. It seems as though, rather, that head coach Mike Tomlin made a mistake, perhaps confused by the fact that he was still dressing eight offensive linemen in spite of the fact that David DeCastro was out with an injury.
Back in March, as part of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the gameday active roster was expanded from 46 players to 47 players, and provided that seven linemen were already a part of that 47, teams were also permitted to dress an eight offensive lineman as the 48th player.
As stated, the Steelers still dressed eight offensive linemen tonight even with DeCastro on the inactive list due to injury, with both rookie Kevin Dotson and first-year center J.C. Hassenauer in uniform, with Stefen Wisniewski, of course, starting at right guard.
But five more players joined DeCastro on the inactive list, including both the predictable and the marginally surprising. Third quarterback Joshua Dobbs was among them, of course, as was rookie sixth defensive lineman Carlos Davis, but second-year tight end Zach Gentry continues to be a healthy scratch.
The team also dressed rookie undrafted cornerback James Pierre as well as linebacker/safety Marcus Allen over Ulysees Gilbert III, who was active for every game for which he was healthy last season, playing 150 special teams snaps.
Rookie running back Anthony McFarland, who was listed as the co-starter as kick returner along with wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud, was named an inactive for the game as well. And there is no indication that the Steelers ever elevated a practice squad player to dress.
In other words, there was no reason that one of Gentry, Gilbert, or McDonald could have dressed tonight, and it’s not clear why Tomlin chose not to activate one of them. This is especially confusing considering the comments that he made last week.
“I’m not going to give them back”, he joked when he was asked about whether and how he intended to utilize the two extra gameday helmets that he had available to him this year. “I’m definitely going to use them, for many of the reasons that we’ve been talking about”.
It’s inexplicable that the Steelers only dressed 47 players tonight, including seven offensive linemen, when they were able to dress 48. It didn’t have an impact on the result of the game, but it’s simply strange, and the most likely explanation is that Tomlin somehow got confused, likely about whether or not he was dressing eight linemen and thus was permitted to dress 48.