Injuries are a part of the game, and when they occur teams have to be ready to adjust accordingly. With the number of players ailing after the Steelers 26-23 loss in overtime to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, there may have to be a few roster moves in order to make sure the Steelers have enough depth at key positions.
Before getting into speculations, the Steelers did make one roster move with their practice squad on Tuesday as they released quarterback Taryn Christion and signed linebacker Robert Spillane who was released last week.
We have signed LB Robert Spillane to the practice squad and released QB Taryn Christion.— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 8, 2019
In today’s press conference, head coach Mike Tomlin acknowledged the Steelers may be forced into making some roster adjustments before they travel to Los Angeles to play the Chargers on Sunday night football. After outlining the various injuries to players such as Mason Rudolph, Jaylen Samuels, James Washington, Mark Barron, Steven Nelson, Vance McDonald, and so on, coach Tomlin knows roster moves will be on the horizon.
“Those things being said,” Tomlin stated, “there may be some subsequent moves from a personnel standpoint to fill out the ranks, but I don’t have any imminent details there. We got some time and ways to do that, and a lot of the candidates are practice squad like guys, so they’re here working and available to us anyway. So I won’t have any expanded dialogue along how we fill in the ranks or who’s who in that regard.”
With quarterback Paxton Lynch and running back Trey Edmunds likely candidates to face a necessary promotion from the practice squad, Coach Tomlin acknowledges their availability already has them in the building and ready to go for preparation without making a move until later in the week. Edmonds may be a foregone conclusion with Jalen Samuels already being ruled out, but if Roosevelt Nix could return to the Steelers lineup he could act as an emergency running back option if the Steelers do not feel like they have the roster space available.
As for Paxton Lynch, his promotion will be completely dependent on Mason Rudolph‘s progress through the NFL concussion protocol. Although the hit looked vicious and Rudolph was unconscious on the field, not all concussions act the same. So while it could be weeks in the protocol, days are also not out of the question.
The other issue with Lynch at quarterback would be if the Steelers feel he is the best option. Coach Tomlin was asked about his comfort with the quarterbacks they currently have in the building.
“I am comfortable.”
As for the running back position, Coach Tomlin was asked about dealing with Samuel’s missing an extended period of time.
“Like we said in here the other week, when we are dealing with circumstances, we had red paint, so we painted our barn red. Okay, now maybe yellow. We will continue to lean on the strengths of our collective group and work to minimize their weakness. Obviously, when Jaylen was a part of us, he was a guy we could lean on and a guy that had some in game experience and some play making ability, and some versatility. Now that he is not, we will continue to spin the dial and lean on the collective strengths of the group.”
With Samuels being out, the most likely candidate to receive more carries in his place would be rookie Benny Snell Jr. Coach Tomlin was asked if he felt it Snell was ready to be more of a contributor in the running game moving forward.
“I believe that he is,” Tomlin answered. “I know that he is chomping at the bit to be a contributor. He is a high-energy young guy. He has been highly productive in special teams and usually production in special teams is an indication of offense and defensive readiness. This guy has been making tackles on coverage units and stuff. It has been really impressive, but obviously we drafted him to play running back. He will probably get an opportunity to get some more exposure there because of the injury to Jaylen and I am sure he will be excited about it.”
As for the new reported injury of Steven Nelson, it is unclear if the Steelers will need to make a move as they already have six cornerbacks on the 53-man roster. Although it would be speculated that Artie Burns could fill-in for Nelson if he is unable to play on Sunday, Coach Tomlin was not ready to make the assumption.
“Again, we will see. I am not ready to count Nelson out at this juncture, so I don’t want to get into speculation.”
When it comes to making roster moves and promoting players from the practice squad, the other big question is which players will be released. While it would be of greater benefit to release a veteran player who could would choose to sign (or not sign) anywhere they like , there is still always the possibility the Steelers may be forced to expose one of their young players to the waiver wire.
So who are the most likely candidates? Here are a few players who could possibly face the chopping block if the Steelers call up practice squad players for Sunday:
Donte Moncrief- only active one out of the last three games where he only saw three snaps with no targets, Moncrief has not been an asset to the receiving corps in 2019. With James Washington questionable to play, Moncrief could be used in his place on Sunday. But if the Steelers do not find him necessary, Moncrief could be the one to go as his release would also give the Steelers back their third-round compensatory pick for the 2020 draft.
Ryan Switzer- used only as a return over the last several weeks, Switzer has not even been the only player back on kickoffs and punts as Johnny Holton and Diontae Johnson have been sharing time respectively. If Switzer is not contributing otherwise, his roster spot could be one that is deemed expendable.
Fred Johnson or Chukwuma Okorafor- carrying an extra lineman has been a luxury as neither player has dressed in 2019. But with young talent waiting in the wings, along with the number of NFL teams hurting for quality offensive linemen, chances are neither one of these players could be available later on if exposed to the NFL waiver wire.
Isaiah Buggs- in essence, ditto everything for the offensive lineman when it comes to Buggs.
So who is most likely to lose their job if the Steelers have to promote players? Or will someone end up on Injured Reserve? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.