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Explaining the many complicated reserve lists in the NFL

There are many complicated reserve lists in the NFL, and we take a look at all of them to see which Steelers fall under each category.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Houston Texans Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The official Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster shows the 90 players who are active, but it also shows injury lists which can confuse football fans. The ramifications surrounding the list to which an injured player is assigned has an impact for both the player and the team. Along these lines, there are also lists which are not injury related, but still noteworthy.

How do these designations affect the Steelers’ roster and the salary cap? Let’s look at how these lists work, and which players are on these lists.


NFL fans know this as injured reserve (IR). This designation denotes that a player will not play in the upcoming season unless the player is designated as returning. The “designated for return” rule allows a team to activate up to two players who have been placed on IR and who have missed 10 games.

Injured reserve players do not count against the current 90-man roster, or the 53-man roster during the season, but their salaries do. A subsequent article will explain how a team can lessen the financial burden of these players.

Steelers on injured reserve

Jerald Hawkins

Trey Johnson

Jake McGee

Ryan Malleck

Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform (PUP)

The Reserve/physically unable to perform list is a short-term list which encompasses players who couldn’t pass their physical when entering camp. Players with this designation do not count against the 90-man roster. Players placed on this list are ineligible for the first six weeks of the regular season and cannot practice. The team then can take up to another three weeks to activate them off of the list.

The player’s salary will count towards the cap, but he will not be credited with an accrued season. If the player is in the final year of his contract, the player will become a free-agent after the season.

Steelers on Reserve PUP

Ryan Shazier

Active / PUP

The active physically unable to perform list is used only during the preseason. Once a player takes part in a practice, he cannot be placed on the active PUP list. Players on this list are those recovering from surgery or injuries in the offseason that are football related who are not ready to practice. They may also place players who fail their conditioning test on the list. Generally, this designation is for players who will practice during camp or preseason.

These players do not count against the 90-man squad but they count against the salary cap. If a player is not activated by the end of preseason, the player reverts to the Reserve/PUP list.

Steelers on active PUP

Eli Rogers

(The Steelers have no players on the following lists.)

Reserve and active NFI list

The non-football injury list is for players unable to practice due to an injury that is not football related or an illness. Players are treated the same way as if they were on the reserve or active PUP lists except that they may or may not get paid during their time on the list.

Reserve/Suspended list

Steelers fans are familiar with this list due to the recent suspension with Martavis Bryant and Le’Veon Bell. Players on this list do not count against the cap because players are not paid, nor do they count against the 90- or 53-man rosters.


These players are listed due to their early retirement while still under contract. The salary cap aspect is the same as if these players were cut. All prorated money comes due in the year the player retires.

Reserve/Left Squad

Reserve/Did Not Report: These players have either quit their teams or quit playing in the NFL and have not yet filed their retirement papers. The player’s salary doesn’t count against the cap, nor does the player count against the 90- or 53-man roster. Daimion Stafford hit this list in 2017 when he didn’t report to the team.


Players who are required to serve in the military while under contract with an NFL team. These players do not count against the team’s salary cap nor against the 90- and 53-man rosters.

The NFL has myriad injury and reserve designations — for the most part, players on the Black-and-gold have avoided the lists. Hopefully, this clears up any questions fans might have had and who is on which list.

Will the Steelers be able to avoid impact players hitting the dreaded IR list? Only time will tell. Do you think Rogers will be activated off of the active PUP list, or do you believe he ends up being inactive into the season?