On Saturday the Pittsburgh Steelers released the team’s third and final injury report prior to the season opener against the New York Giants. In a mild surprise, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was added to the list, as he did not practice on Saturday due to “Coach’s Decision.”
There has been no indication that Big Ben is laboring with any sort of injury. But it’s curious that he would be held out of the final practice before the season opener, especially since the team hasn’t had any preseason action and he hasn’t played football in almost a year. The Steelers’ offense has also been abysmal in its past few season openers. (More on that below.)
David DeCastro Ruled “Out”
The addition of Roethlisberger to the list overshadows the fact that All-Pro right guard David DeCastro did not practice on Saturday and has been ruled out of Monday night’s game. As a result, veteran free agent acquisition Stefen Wisniewski is expected to start in DeCastro’s place alongside new right tackle Zach Banner. Matt Feiler will start at left guard, meaning there will be three new starters on the offensive line, joining holdover starters Alejandro Villanueva and Maurkice Pouncey, at left tackle and center, respectively.
Second-year wide receiver Diontae Johnson remains on the injury list with a foot injury, but he practiced for the second day in a row and is expected to play on Monday night.
Steelers Offense in Recent Season Openers
One of the biggest concerns for the Steelers going into the season is how poorly the offense has performed in recent openers.
Last year the Steelers started on the road against the New England Patriots and the team produced just 15 first downs and 308 total yards en route to a 37-3 loss. Worse yet, the Steelers gained just 32 yards on the ground and it took Big Ben 47 attempts to gain 276 yards through the air.
Pittsburgh’s offense was arguably even worse in the 2018 opener—a 21-21 tie against the Cleveland Browns. While it did rack up 472 total yards in five quarters it turned the ball over six times—three Ben Roethlisberger interceptions and three fumbles lost—while also allowing four sacks.
Looking back, the 2017 opener—also at the Cleveland Browns—wasn’t that great either. The Steelers eeked out a 21-18 win despite just 16 first downs and 35 rushing yards.
Penalties have also been a big problem for the players in recent openers, with the team committing 12 penalties in the 2018 opener and 13 in the 2017 game.
New York Giants Injury Update
The New York Giants listed three players as “limited” in practice on Saturday and all are considered “questionable” for Monday night’s game with hamstring injuries. Those players are linebacker Tae Crowder, tight end Levine Toiolo and wide receiver Golden Tate.
Tate is an important player in the Giants’ offense. In 11 games last season he contributed 49 receptions for 676 yards and six touchdowns, second on the team in both receiving yards and receiving touchdowns behind wide receiver Darius Slayton.
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