The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the regular season, following the most unique offseason in the NFL since at least World War II. While it didn’t involve a player lockout, teams still did not have physical access to their players, though they were at least able to meet with them virtually.
Even training camp looked much different from the norm, and a big part of that was the fact that there will be no games along the way to prepare for. Their first football game of the year was to be the opener against the New York Giants.
As the season progresses, however, there will be a number of questions that arise on a daily basis, and we will do our best to try to raise attention to them as they come along, in an effort to both point them out and to create discussion
Questions like, how will the players who are in new positions this year going to perform? Will the rookies be able to contribute significantly? How will Ben Roethlisberger look—and the other quarterbacks as well? Now, we even have questions about whether or not players will be in quarantine.
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: How many healthy starting players will play zero snaps on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns?
Head coach Mike Tomlin made it clear yesterday that his priority in the season finale is to give some key players rest, while still attempting to win the game, which has a high probability of having zero meaning. They are locked into the third seed, and can only advance as high as the second seed, which would require that the Buffalo Bills lose to the Miami Dolphins.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is the only player that Tomlin named, but it’s safe to guess that he will not be the only player to sit out. In past meaningless season finales, center Maurkice Pouncey, guard David DeCastro, and defensive lineman Cameron Heyward have all sat out, and they would be the safest bets to get rest. Joe Haden would be another name, with Cameron Sutton the candidate to start.
There are options for Heyward, of course. They carry seven defensive linemen this year, and Chris Wormley started in the game that Stephon Tuitt missed due to Covid-19. J.C. Hassenauer would have to start at center as the only other center-capable player. With Kevin Dotson still filling in for Matt Feiler, Danny Isidora would have to start at right guard.
The Steelers only currently have eight linemen on the 53-man roster, however, so even though they may not play, at least one of Pouncey or DeCastro may still dress for the game in an emergency. We could see Anthony Coyle be elevated from the practice squad again.
Outside of these three additional players, I’m not sure I see any other obvious players they will sit. They have some depth at safety, so they could consider sitting Minkah Fitzpatrick entirely, with Sean Davis getting the opportunity to start, but they don’t normally do this with such young starters.