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Predicting the Steelers’ Week 15 inactive list vs. the Bills

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When it comes to the Steelers’ running backs, who is active on gameday is difficult to determine

NFL: DEC 01 Browns at Steelers Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The players who are going to be available for the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on Sunday night against the Buffalo Bills has shifted significantly throughout the week. As the excitement of James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster returning to practice as full participants early in the week had Steeler fans anxious to see them take the field, their injury designation does not exactly instill confidence. With Smith-Schuster already ruled out along with Vance McDonald, seeing James Conner as questionable after practicing fully all week does not give Steelers’ fans an overwhelming sense of hope in seeing his return.


Game Status

Out:
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster (knee)
TE Vance McDonald (concussion)

Questionable:
RB James Conner (shoulder)


Here are the possibilities to end up inactive for Week 15:

Definitely:

WR JuJu Smith-Schuster- reports were mixed when JuJu was unable to finish practice on Thursday. But being held out Friday sealed his fate as he will miss his fourth straight game of 2019.

TE Vance McDonald- unable to clear the concussion protocol, the fact McDonald was limited on Thursday and did not practice on Friday is not a good sign even as he moves into next week.

Most Likely:

QB Paxton Lynch- another week, and another paycheck for Lynch to not even put on the pads.

OT Chukwuma Okorafor- unfortunately for Chuks, the Steelers offensive line has remained quite healthy in 2019

LB Tuzar Skipper- as happy is Steelers’ Nation was to see him back in black and gold, they haven’t had the chance to watch Skipper actually take the field on game day.

CB Artie Burns- returning from injury last week, the Steelers decided Justin Layne was playing well enough on special teams to keep Artie Burns on the sideline. Once they have set the precedence, it’s hard to think they will do otherwise until they show things have changed.

Possibly:

RB James Conner- it’s quite a surprise after practicing in a full capacity all week that Conner would still be considered questionable. Perhaps the Steelers are not ready to test his shoulder again as another setback could end his season.

RB Trey Edmunds- if Conner is able to play against the Bills, it’s extremely difficult to dress five running backs. Even though he has seen snaps at fullback, Edmunds has been the least utilized of the four RB’s who have dressed over the last three weeks.

CB Justin Layne- the Steelers could make the change back to Burns as the back up corner, but getting Layne some playing time on special teams is only going to help his development in the longrun.

Unlikely:

TE Zach Gentry- he’s been inactive for all but three games in 2019, but for the Steelers to go into Sunday night with only one tight end would be foolish. Therefore, Gentry gets a helmet again.


Projected Inactive List:

  1. JuJu Smith-Scuster
  2. Vance McDonald
  3. Paxton Lynch
  4. Chuks Okorafor
  5. Tuzar Skipper
  6. Artie Burns
  7. James Conner

I can’t say for sure why I have this impression, but it just feels like the Steelers are going to sit James Conner for another week. If Jaylen Samuels groin would have kept him out, I think Conner may have at least dressed and seen a little action. But with four other healthy backs, the Steelers have to decide how much they would want to utilize Conner and if it would be worth the roster spot. But there still a chance the Steelers could make the move for Conner’s return, even if in a limited capacity.

As always, feel free to list your projected inactives in the comments below.