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Predicting the Steelers’ inactive list for Week 3 vs. the Bengals

The Steelers have three players ruled out and could be looking to the practice squad for help this week.

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers are dealing with multiple injuries again this week as they have their first AFC North matchup of the 2021 NFL season. After three players missed Week 2 due to injury, the Steelers already have three players ruled out for Sunday’s game. With the Steelers already down one outside linebacker and another one questionable, they almost certainly have to reach to their practice squad for added depth against the Bengals.

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, their inactive list would increase by the same number of players. Until the Steelers announce an elevation, we will assume it is only five players but will also add more choices as one or two players being called up is likely.

Game Status

OLB Alex Highsmith (groin)
WR Diontae Johnson (knee)
DT Carlos Davis (knee)

OLB T.J. Watt (groin) (UPDATE: Downgraded to OUT)

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


OLB Alex Highsmith- First experiencing a groin injury going into Week 1, Highsmith wasn’t on the injury radar at all last week. Unfortunately, the second-year player will miss his first career game on Sunday.

WR Diontae Johnson- Injured on the final play of the game this past Sunday, the Steelers were given positive news this week as Diontae Johnson‘s knee injury was not one which appeared to be of the long-term variety. Even though it was encouraging, he is still missing this week’s game.

DT Carlos Davis- With Davis missing his second-straight game, he may be running in danger of not having a roster spot if Stephon Tuitt is able to return in the near future.

Most Likely:

G Rashaad Coward- Despite the number of injuries going on with the Steelers, none of them are on the offensive line. So after being inactive the first two weeks, Coward is likely on the list again.


QB Dwayne Haskins- Yes, Haskins has been moved down a category simply because Ben Roethlisberger is dealing with a pectoral injury. The Steelers could dress a third quarterback just in case, but having two players standing on the sidelines and using one of the 48 slots for guys you hope never set foot on the field probably won’t happen.

OLB T.J. Watt- In his interview with the media on Friday, Watt explained he truly is a game-time decision as how his injury progresses the next day will ultimately determine his status for Sunday. (UPDATE: Downgraded to OUT)

LB Buddy Johnson- The Steelers aren’t likely to dress six inside linebackers, and with none expected to miss this week due to injury, Johnson will probably be the odd man out.

LB Marcus Allen/Ulysees Gilbert- It won’t necessarily have to be Buddy Johnson who doesn’t get the helmet. It could be one of the other two inside linebackers who haven’t played a snap on defense yet in 2021.

CB Ahkello Witherspoon- We will likely never know if Witherspoon would have received a helmet if Joe Haden wasn’t out in Week 2. The odds of the Steelers sitting a cornerback are high, and it was Witherspoon on the list in Week 1.

CB Arthur Maulet- The other cornerback who could possibly sit out is probably more likely to be Arthur Maulet as he did not see any defensive snaps in Week 2.


A practice squad call-up- Once the Steelers call up a player for the game on Sunday, the player is going to make a game check. While I understand having an additional outside linebacker who could be ready to play in the game might be helpful, but to call up a player and not give him a helmet just isn’t likely.

Projected Inactive List:

  1. Alex Highsmith
  2. Diontae Johnson
  3. Carlos Davis
  4. Dwayne Haskins
  5. Rashaad Coward
  6. Buddy Johnson*
  7. Ahkello Witherspoon*

I went ahead and included two more players as I believe the Steelers have to call up at least one player from the practice squad, and likely two. I’m being overly optimistic and hope T.J. Watt will be able to play on Sunday, and still think if the Steelers bring up two outside linebackers from the practice squad it would be wise to dress them all. I don’t think the Steelers use an extra quarterback, so Haskins is still a no go. I’m going with Buddy Johnson and Ahkello Witherspoon as the last two just because I believe those are the correct positions so I picked a player at each.

UPDATE: Well, that lasted all of about 10 minutes as the Steelers have downgraded T.J. Watt to OUT for Sunday’s game. With this, the Steelers HAVE to elevate two players from the practice squad if not make a roster move. Since the last player is purely a guess, I’ll go with these seven:

  1. T.J. Watt
  2. Alex Highsmith
  3. Diontae Johnson
  4. Carlos Davis
  5. Dwayne Haskins
  6. Rashaad Coward
  7. Buddy Johnson

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