Steelers Injury Update: Rookie Center Still Sidelined, ‘Significant Losses’ on Defense

Kendrick Green Steelers

Mitchell Leff/Getty Images Kendrick Green of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on against the Philadelphia Eagles during a preseason game at Lincoln Financial Field on August 12, 2021.

On Friday the Pittsburgh Steelers issued their second injury/participation report of the week, which highlighted how rookie center Kendrick Green missed practice for a second straight day with the calf injury he suffered against the Kansas City Chiefs on December 26. As such, it’s looking more and more likely that backup center/guard J.C. Hassenauer will start in place of Green against the Cleveland Browns on January 3.

Perhaps not coincidentally, Hassenauer was made available to the media on New Year’s Eve. The former undrafted free agent out of Alabama has been with the Steelers since 2019 and appeared in 15 games last season, with four starts in place of Maurkice Pouncey. This year he has played in 11 games, including one start at left guard.

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Rookie Linebacker Buddy Johnson Hasn’t Practiced This Week

Also missing practice for the second consecutive day on Friday was rookie inside linebacker Buddy Johnson, who has been sidelined for the past two games with a foot injury. This would not be a source of particular concern, except that the Steelers placed linebacker Joe Schobert on the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Friday. As of now, both of Pittsburgh’s starting inside linebackers are on COVID Reserve.

Assuming that remains the case, backup Robert Spillane figures to make his third start of the season. Converted safety Marcus Allen—who has played almost exclusively on special teams this year—could conceivably start as well, which is why it’s worth noting that Allen recently spent nine days on the COVID Reserve list, having been activated on Thursday December 30.

It gets worse. On Friday the Steelers also added defensive lineman Chris Wormley to the Reserve/COVID-19 list, where he joins defensive end Isaiah Buggs. Practice squad defensive end Daniel Archibong won’t be an option against the Browns, either, as he went on the COVID Reserve list on Friday too.

Schobert and and Wormley are “significant losses for the defense,” noted ESPN’s Brooke Pryor on New Year’s Eve, yet another reason why slowing down Cleveland’s run game could be a huge problem on Monday night. The Browns have a healthy Nick Chubb (5.5 yards per carry and 1,143 rushing yards this season), plus fellow running back D’Ernest Johnson, who is averaging 5.7 yards per rush this year. Somehow the Steelers held those two to a total of 83 yards and one touchdown in Pittsburgh’s 15-10 win on October 31.

But Schobert was the Steelers’ leading tackler that day (nine tackles), while Devin Bush had five and Wormley had four tackles and a sack. The Steelers don’t figure to have the services of cornerback Arthur Maulet on Monday either (COVID-19 Reserve), and he had four tackles in the Halloween Day game.

Corliss Waitman Will Sub for Pressley Harvin III

Meanwhile, Corliss Waitman figures to serve as Pittsburgh’s punter/holder for the second consecutive game, as rookie punter Pressley Harvin III has not practiced this week, still away from the team in the wake of his dad’s death on Christmas Day. Less than a week earlier, the Steelers made special arrangements to bring Harvin’s father to Heinz Field so he could see his son play “one last time.”

The Steelers went on to sign Waitman on December 25, already very familiar with him, as he spent all of last season on Pittsburgh’s practice squad after signing as an undrafted free agent on April 28, 2020. He was brought back on a one-year Reserve/Futures contract in early 2021, only to get waived shortly after the Steelers selected Harvin in the seventh round of the 2021 NFL Draft.

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