The Pittsburgh Steelers are kicking off the 2021 NFL preseason in the Hall of Fame Game Thursday night at 8 PM. While we already know there were a number of Dallas Cowboys’ players who did not make the trip to Canton and will not appear in the game, exactly which members of the Steelers will play or not is still to be determined.
While head coach Mike Tomlin already listed three players who would not be playing, there is likely a much more lengthy list who will not appear on Tom Benson Field. The following lists is players who I project will not appear in the game. They are broken into categories such as definites (ones Coach Tomlin has already named), limited in practice (players who don’t have enough time in to be prepared to play), coming off of injury (players who the Steelers may not want to risk their progress), and why take the risk (players really don’t need to see any time).
Here are the possibilities of who won’t see the field in Canton on Thursday night:
QB Ben Roethlisberger- while some thought Roethlisberger might appear for a series, there was no chance of this happening. He hasn’t played in more than one preseason game since 2015.
DT Cameron Heyward- The Steelers defensive captain doesn’t need any more wear and tear on his body with more opportunities still to come to tuneup for the 2021 season.
CB Joe Haden- The last thing the Steelers want is an injury to their “set in stone” cornerback. Resting Haden gives other players a chance to show what they can do.
Limited in Practice:
OLB T.J. Watt- He has yet to participate in live action in practice, it’s not happening in a meaningless preseason game.
DE Stephon Tuitt- Still working his way back after missing OTA’s due to the death of his brother, there’s no reason to rush Tuitt into action.
OT Chuks Okorafor- Although I’m not sure what exactly is holding back Okorafor, he hasn’t been participating in live team activities.
G Kevin Dotson- Limited early in training camp, Dotson is still working his way back to full strength and likely doesn’t need four preseason games if he still working out an injury.
C J.C. Hassenauer- Unable to practice the last several sessions, I think Hassenauer would have played if he was available. I just don’t think he is.
RB Benny Snell- Another player who would have seen playing time had he been available, Snell reportedly has not been at practice all this week.
RB Anthony McFarland- After being seen with some ice at the end of Monday’s practice, McFarland did not practice Tuesday which does not bode well for the second-year running back to play Thursday night.
S Terrell Edmunds- We found out this week Edmunds had offseason surgery and has been limited in practice, so there’s no reason for him to play this game.
TE Eric Ebron- I’m not sure when the last time was Eric Ebron has practiced, but he’s been around the NFL long enough to not need the Hall of Fame Game.
TE Pat Freiermuth- This one is disappointing. After leaving practice early on Tuesday with a shoulder injury, if there’s any question as to whether or not the Steelers 2021 second-round draft pick is ready to go, they should just hold him out this week.
Coming off injury:
OT Zach Banner- Although he could have just as easily been in the previous group, why not put Banner in the “coming off an ACL injury” category along with his rehab buddy.
LB Devin Bush- Even though the stadium was rebuilt after the last time the Steelers played in the Hall of Fame Game, I still don’t trust the turf. For this reason alone I would not play Devin Bush in the Hall of Fame Game but try to give him more snaps in other preseason games.
Why take the risk:
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster- He’s got the most experience of any player in the wide receiver room, so I don’t see the Steelers dressing Smith-Schuster in Canton.
S Minkah Fitzpatrick- I’m shocked Fitzpatrick wasn’t put in the category of definites, but he wasn’t listed by Coach Tomlin.
DT Tyson Alualu- With so many years experience already, the veteran nose tackle should easily give way to giving playing time to the numerous other players on the defensive line.
WR (any other player)- The Steelers could choose to sit multiple wide receivers. Exactly which ones would be a mystery. Ray-Ray McCloud did miss practice one day this week, so he’s a possibility. Simply not playing Diontae Johnson or Chase Claypool isn’t out of the question either.
So there is a list of players I think will not be playing in tonight Hall of Fame Game. How did I do? If there are anyone on the list you think will play? Are there other players I’m missing? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.