3 Steelers Running Backs Unavailable to Play vs. Ravens

Jaylen Samuels Steelers

Joe Sargent/Getty Images Jaylen Samuels of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Thanks to illness and injury, the Pittsburgh Steelers are getting perilously thin at the running back position. On Saturday morning a report emerged that the team’s No. 1 running back, James Conner, had tested positive for COVID-19. In the afternoon the Steelers placed Conner on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, which means he won’t be available to play against the Baltimore Ravens (Dec. 1) or Washington Redskins (Dec. 6).

The Steelers won’t have RB Trey Edmunds available for those games either, nor will Edmunds be able to play at Buffalo (Dec. 13), as he was placed on injured reserve on Thanksgiving Day with a hamstring injury.

Making matters worse, on Saturday the Steelers also announced that third-year RB Jaylen Samuels has already been ruled ‘out’ for Tuesday’s game against the Ravens with a quad injury.

That leaves the Steelers with just two healthy tailbacks on the team’s active roster: Second-year man Benny Snell Jr., and rookie Anthony McFarland Jr.

Snell has 57 carries for 195 yards this season, as well as three touchdowns. McFarland has 20 carries for 67 yards and an identical 3.4 yards per carry average.

Conceivably the Steelers could also ask fullback Derek Watt to carry/catch the ball, but the team would more likely turn to its only other available option: elevating Wendell Smallwood from the practice squad. Smallwood has 52 games of NFL experience with the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles, but hasn’t played a down this season.

Steelers Starting CB Listed as ‘Questionable’

In other notable news from Saturday’s injury report, the Steelers have listed starting cornerback Joe Haden as ‘questionable’ with a knee injury. Things could be a lot worse for Haden, though. He was involved in a car accident on Friday that scraped up the passenger side of his black Rolls-Royce.

2 Steelers Assistant Coaches ‘Out’ vs. Ravens

Meanwhile, the Steelers have also announced that special teams coordinator Danny Smith will not coach against the Ravens, with assistant wide receivers coach Blaine Stewart handling Smith’s duties.

On Saturday, Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Smith has tested positive for COVID-19.

In addition, quarterbacks coach Matt Canada will also be unavailable on Tuesday “due to illness.”

Baltimore Ravens COVID-19 Update

But whatever challenges the Steelers are facing from an injury/illness perspective, those pale in comparison to the challenges currently faced by the Ravens.

On Saturday, Baltimore added six more players to its Reserve/COVID-19 list, including first-team right tackle D.J. Fluker.

That brings the current total to 20 players. See the list below, as compiled by ESPN’s Ravens reporter, Jamison Hensley.

When you consider that the Ravens also have eight players on injured reserve, it’s getting to the point where it’s doubtful that Baltimore could field a competitive team for an NFL game.

Per Hensley, the Ravens now have just six offensive linemen and three defensive linemen who are available to play on Tuesday, and that includes the members of its practice squad.

Or, to put it another way …

Moreover, according to Pro Football Talk, on Saturday evening the Ravens received word that yet another player has tested positive.

And Pittsburgh isn’t expected to get its off-site Saturday test results until early Sunday morning, meaning more positive test results could be forthcoming soon.

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