With Diontae Johnson officially ruled out for tomorrow’s game against the Cleveland Browns, the Pittsburgh Steelers will be going into a game with an injury at the wide receiver position for the first time this season, even though Johnson has missed extended time in each of the past two weeks.
Because of their decision to carry only five wide receivers on the 53-man roster this year, that also means that they are heading into this game with only four healthy. in other words, we should expect that for the second week in a row, the Steelers will make use of the practice squad elevation procedure in order to promote wide receiver Deon Cain to the active roster.
With fullback Derek Watt missing Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Steelers used the elevation process for the first time to bring Trey Edmunds up to the active roster, filling on both on special teams and as a blocker on offense. Cain will now provide depth at wide receiver this week.
As a reminder of how the elevation process works, each player on the practice squad may be ‘elevated’ to the active roster twice per team per season, as the 54th or 55th player. This means that Edmunds may only be elevated one more time, and the same would apply to Cain if he is indeed elevated.
If they should find their way to another team’s practice squad this season, however, they would have a separate count for that team (but not if they would then subsequently return to the Steelers).
A player who is promoted to the active roster as an additional player through the elevation process reverts back to the practice squad without going through waivers at 12:01 AM on the day after the game, or immediately following the game if it extends beyond midnight.
Once a player is elevated two times by the same team during a season, he must be signed to a new contract to the 53-man roster in order to be eligible to play again for that team that season, so if either Edmunds or Cain are to be promoted again after this game, they will run out of elevation slots.
Cain is a former 2018 sixth-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts. After spending his rookie season on injured reserve, he spent three games to start the 2019 season on the 53-man roster before being demoted to the practice squad.
The Steelers signed him off of the Colts’ practice squad for the final six games of the 2019 season, during which time he caught five passes on six targets for 72 yards. He also drew multiple penalties against defensive backs in the process.
Assuming that he is elevated, Cain figures to get on the field. Behind JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, and a rookie Chase Claypool is only Ray-Ray McCloud, who largely functions as a gadget player.