By Christina Rivers
The Pittsburgh Steelers saw several injuries during the preseason and leading up to the NFL season opener against the New England Patriots, there are 14 players on the reserve/injured list, two players on league suspension, one on the PUP list and their Pro Bowl center on reserve/designated to return. The Steelers made several roster moves to put their best roster on the field Thursday night and will ask those players to step up as 2015 kicks off.
The most notable injuries the Steelers are dealing with as they open the 2015 NFL regular season are those to veteran center Maurkice Pouncey and kicker Shaun Suisham. Pittsburgh also has the following players inactive in their first week of season play due to their placement on the reserve/injured list: Rob Blanchflower, Cameron Clear, Clifton Geathers, Senquez Golson, Bruce Gradkowski, Ray Hamilton, Garrett Hartley, Micah Hatchie, David Nelson, Kelvin Palmer, Eli Rogers, Suisham, Mitchell Van Dyk and Jordan Zumwalt. Mike Adams is on the PUP list.
The Steelers are in a fortunate spot despite the number of injuries because they’ve been able to adjust their roster accordingly. Several of the players on those lists were considered backups to their respective positions and with Pouncey being an early scratch, Pittsburgh was able to bring in Doug Legursky to assist Cody Wallace in handling the snaps at center for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. With Gradkowski out and Landry Jones suffering a concussion, Michael Vick will step up as Roethlisberger’s backup on Thursday night. The Steelers signed Josh Scobee to handle the placekicker duties.
Pittsburgh was able to put the remainder of their roster on the field for practice Monday and Tuesday minus only Jones. From a fantasy standpoint, that indicates that the Steelers will have a full complement of players at each position on the field against the Patriots.
The Steelers were waiting for a few players to come back from preseason issues and it looks like they got their wish. Linebacker Lawrence Timmons hadn’t played since a brief appearance in the Hall-of Fame Game on Aug. 9 against Minnesota. On Tuesday, Timmons said, “The speed is always where it is. Nothing’s changed there…We’re just going to play Steeler ball, play hard-nosed football and just have fun out there.” Second year defensive end Stephon Tuitt missed the final two preseason games, but admitted he felt good about his ability to play at New England.
As for how the offense will compensate for the absence of Bell and Bryant, offensive coordinator Todd Haley said the team was well aware of the duties facing them, and that both Will Johnson and Dri Archer are ready to play. The Steelers brought in rusher Jordan Todman and Haley said that he had repetitions on Tuesday and looked to be catching on to the Steelers’ scheme. What Haley did not reveal was who would be given the majority of the backup rushing duties behind DeAngelo Williams. “He’s a good back and a very good runner. He’s been a productive player everywhere he’s been, even dating back to college,” Haley said of Williams. “In the NFL, he was in a platoon situation and was still effective. He understands protections well and knows how to run routes and catch the football. (He) has come in here and listened to the coaches. He’s given 100% in the weight room. He has a lot of energy and we hear him all day long. We like those kinds of guys. From what I’ve seen, I’m excited to have him and I know he feels the same.”
The Steelers will have Antonio Brown and Markus Wheaton as well as Darrius Heyward-Bey at receiver. Haley noted that Heyward-Bey has stepped up to help young guys on top of doing the things the coaching staff asks of him. The Steelers hadn’t decided who would be slid into the fourth receiver spot as of Tuesday, meaning Tyler Murphy or Sammie Coates could be called on. “Everybody here is getting ready to have a hat on,” Haley said. “We have confidence in everyone, or they wouldn’t be here.”
Start: Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, DeAngelo Williams
In three receiver leagues: Darrius Heyward-Bey
Sit: Steelers Defense
Out: Landry Jones (QB, concussion)
Patriots Injuries: Bryan Stork (C, concussion) – Out; Tavon Wilson (S, hamstring) – questionable; Travaris Cadet (RB, hamstring) – probable; Trey Flowers (DE, knee) – probable
Christina Rivers has covered the Pittsburgh Steelers and National Football League professionally as a journalist and photographer for over a decade. Rivers studied Exercise Physiology and Sports Psychology at Brigham Young University as a student-athlete. Christina is a freelance writer covering all things NFL as well as a published author. Her work can be found on