At the front of the discussion, of course, is starting quarterback Kenny Pickett, who has missed each of the past two weeks with an ankle injury. Tomlin noted that Pickett had a “really good rehab” session on Monday, saying, “His availability is not out of question this week.”
Tomlin did announce that the team intends to start Mason Rudolph
over Mitch Trubisky in Week 16, stating, “It’s our intention to give Mason Rudolph an opportunity to start.” However, that could change if Pickett’s rehabilitation continues to progress throughout the week.
Tomlin also discussed free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, who was forced from Week 15 after suffering a knee injury, stating he would be OUT for Week 16’s outing against the Cincinnati Bengals. It’s one of several injuries the Steelers are dealing with at the safety position, as safety Trenton Thompson is also dealing with a stinger that forced him to miss some snaps in Week 15. Though he wasn’t ruled out due to that injury, Tomlin stated it “limited his effectiveness,” so his status in practice throughout the week should be monitored closely.
Given the number of injuries, Tomlin mentioned the possible return of Elijah Riley, who’s currently on injured reserve with an ankle injury suffered back in Week 11, as well as a potential role for veteran Eric Rowe, who was signed to the practice squad back in November.
At strong safety, Keanu Neal remains on injured reserve with a rib injury, and he will not be activated for Week 16.
Tomlin also confirmed that defensive tackle Cam Heyward remains in the concussion protocol, with his availability for Week 16 contingent upon clearing that protocol with the approval of the medical staff and independent neurological consultant.
The Steelers are set to host the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 16, kicking off on Saturday, December 23 at 4:30 p.m. ET. That means they’ll be short one extra day to get their guys healthy (and ready) for a must-win divisional game.