The Pittsburgh Steelers will play the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday afternoon on the road, and if you’re like me, you’re counting down the hours until the Week 12 game begins. As usual, I will attempt to project the Steelers’ inactives for every game of the 2021 season, and below is my best guess as to which players won’t be given helmets on Sunday afternoon against the Bengals.
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. Also, the new roster rules make this exercise even harder as teams can elevate up to two players from their practice squads to their active roster for gamedays. Teams also can dress up to 48 players for games if eight offensive linemen are dressed.
QB Dwayne Haskins – Two weeks ago, Haskins dressed for the first time this season and that was due to starring quarterback Ben Roethlisberger being placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list that week. Roethlisberger was back for the Week 12 Sunday night game and remains healthy, which is the same for backup quarterback Mason Rudolph. Last Sunday night it was back to the inactive list for Haskins and barring injuries or another COVID-19 incident, he’ll likely remain there on gamedays moving forward for the remainder of the season.
CB Joe Haden – The Steelers downgraded Haden to out on the team’s injury report on Saturday and that now means he’ll miss a second consecutive game with A foot injury that he originally suffered in Week 10. With Haden now ruled out, backup cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon will likely once again dress in his place and serve as depth on Sunday against the Bengals. Haden being sidelined again should result in cornerback James Pierre starting against the Bengals in Cincinnati.
ILB Buddy Johnson – Johnson dressed for the Steelers’ first three games of the regular season due to injuries at various positions and he has not dressed for a game since. Johnson figures to once again be on the inactive list again Sunday afternoon against the Bengals. The Steelers have been dressing inside linebackers Devin Bush, Joe Schobert, Robert Spillane, Marcus Allen and Ulysees Gilbert III the last several weeks, and that should continue Sunday afternoon in Cincinnati.
RB Anthony McFarland Jr. – The Steelers once again made McFarland inactive in Week 12 and he now hasn’t dressed since Week 8. Instead of giving McFarland a helmet, the team has been giving it to fellow running back Kalen Ballage. Because of what has happened with McFarland the last three games, it’s hard to envision the second-year running back out of Maryland being allowed to dress over Ballage on Sunday against the Bengals. Like Witherspoon, McFarland doesn’t play on special teams, and that’s another thing that hurts his cause. The Steelers are bound to have one inactive running back on Sunday afternoon, and that running back is unlikely to be Benny Snell Jr. In short, it will likely either be McFarland or Ballage, and once again this week, my money is on the former missing out on a gameday helmet. If McFarland does dress over Ballage on Sunday, we could see the second-year player return kickoffs.
DE Daniel Archibong – The Steelers elevated Archibong from the practice squad on Saturday but that move could be insurance against any defensive lineman getting injured during pre game warmups on Sunday in Cincinnati. The Steelers are expected to get defensive end Isaiahh Loudermilk back from his groin injury on Sunday and if that’s the case, the team might not need Archibong to dress.