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Predicting the Steelers’ inactive list for Sunday vs. the Titans

The Steelers only have 52 players on the roster, but they still need another offensive lineman.

NFL: OCT 31 Steelers at Browns Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers have had an extensive layoff with the bad taste of a loss in their mouth. With one player currently on the Reserve/COVID-19 List, the Steelers have the chance to use a COVID replacement along with two practice squad elevations to add to the 52 players currently on the roster if they so choose. With one player already ruled out for Sunday, with another three being questionable, the Steelers currently only have seven of the needed eight offensive linemen available. There will be a roster move coming on Saturday, but the bigger question is if the Steelers do more than one.

The rules in the 2021 season when it comes to the players active on game day have been carried over from last season. As long as a team has eight offensive lineman who will be dressing for the game, they could have 48 players on their active roster rather than the 46 in previous seasons. If the Steelers elevate any players from their practice squad (not sign them to the active roster), their inactive list would increase by the same number of players. With moves definitely coming on Saturday, we’ll look at the possibilities of how things could play out.

Game Status

LB Buddy Johnson (foot)
DT Isaiah Buggs (ankle)

CB Joe Haden (foot)
TE Kevin Rader (hip)
DT Isaiah Buggs (ankle)

Here are the possibilities to end up inactive for the Steelers against the Titans on Sunday:


LB Buddy Johnson- It was going to be interesting if the Steelers chose to have Johnson or a different inside linebacker inactive this week. I guess we’ll never know since Johnson got injured and didn’t participate in Friday’s practice.

Most Likely:

QB Dwayne Haskins- Ben Roethlisberger blah blah blah, Mason Rudolph blah blah blah. Haskins is inactive.

DT Isaiah Buggs- Yes, I’m putting one of the questionable players on a different level than the other two since Isaiah Buggs did not practice the last two days of the week. Plus, I think he would have been the odd man out anyway.

UPDATE: Isaiah Buggs has been downgraded to OUT for the game vs. the Titans Sunday.


CB Joe Haden- After missing four games, Joe Haden is questionable and not already ruled out after being limited on Thursday and practicing fully on Friday. It would be a nice boost to the defense to get him back in the secondary.

TE Kevin Rader- It seemed as if Rader was injured in Wednesday’s practice as he was limited and then did not practice Thursday. The only thing keeping him questionable was he was able to practice in a limited capacity on Friday.

RB Anthony McFarland- He has been inactive for most of the season, even after returning from IR. Unless a running back isn’t available or they need another kick returner, there’s a good chance McFarland doesn’t get a helmet.

CB James Pierre/Justin Layne- The Steelers have had one cornerback in active all season. If Haden is able to go, and with Witherspoon moving up the depth chart, the most likely candidate is either James Pierre or Justin Layne.


CB Ahkello Witherspoon- Despite being inactive for most of the games in 2021, Ahkello Witherspoon started the last two games and is more in the mix to be a starting corner than he is to be inactive at this point.

Projected Inactive List:

  1. Buddy Johnson
  2. Dwayne Haskins
  3. Isaiah Buggs
  4. Kevin Rader
  5. Anthony McFarland

The first two names are the obvious ones as Buddy Johnson has been ruled out and the Steelers don’t need a third quarterback. Of the three questionable players, I’m going with Joe Haden to at least dress and attempt to play while the other two are inactive. It might be wishful thinking on my part, but I’m going with it.

For the final spot, I’m going with Anthony McFarland again rather than a cornerback. Although the Steelers carried an extra running back when they were down to two tight ends earlier this season, it just feels like they can get by with only two and having an extra corner in case Joe Haden is not a full go in his first week back is a good idea if they can manage to do so.

I’m going with just five players as I believe the Steelers will either add an offensive lineman from the practice squad or activate J.C. Hassenauer coming back from IR. If the Steelers make additional moves, I don’t know which cornerback doesn’t get a helmet as they would likely be the next candidate.

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