On Thursday the Pittsburgh Steelers activated tight end Eric Ebron and outside linebacker Cassius Marsh from the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Both were added to the list on January 2nd by virtue of being “close contacts” of Steelers cornerback Joe Haden, who has reportedly tested positive for the virus. Both missed the season finale against the Cleveland Browns but figure to be back in the lineup for Sunday’s playoff tilt against the Browns.
Ebron has 56 catches for 558 yards and five touchdowns this season. Marsh had two tackles against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 16.
The Steelers may also get several ‘significant’ injured players back this week, including inside linebacker Robert Spillane and offensive guard Matt Feiler, both of whom returned to practice on Wednesday.
Two other players who missed the season finale—strong safety Terrell Edmunds and placekicker Chris Boswell—also have a chance to return this week, with Edmunds the more likely of the two, as Boswell was a limited participant in practice on Wednesday.
Friends and Family Only at Heinz Field?
On Friday, Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt addressed the media and talked about returning to Pittsburgh for this weekend’s game. You may remember Van Pelt, as he’s a Pittsburgh native who starred at quarterback for the University of Pittsburgh and was selected by the Steelers in the eighth round of the 1993 NFL Draft.
Van Pelt is getting added media attention this week as he will be calling plays for the Browns on Sunday in the wake of head coach Kevin Stefanski’s absence. But he tried to downplay the return to Pittsburgh angle, saying, “I won’t have any friends in the stands” for this game.
#Browns OC Alex Van Pelt was born in Pittsburgh, was a star QB at Pitt, was drafted by the #Steelers and still has a home in the area. He totally downplayed coming home for the playoffs this week, though, saying, "I won't have any friends in the stands."
— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) January 7, 2021
That’s because there won’t be any fans in the stands this week, as the crowd will be limited to friends and family of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“There had been hope within the organization that the state would grant approval for a limited crowd—similar to the 5,500 capacity permitted at home games in October and November,” notes Brooke Pryor of ESPN. “Ultimately, though, the organization will have to abide by the state order that allows a maximum capacity of 2,500 in the building, including coaches, players and support staff.”
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) January 7, 2021
Home Field Advantage in the Playoffs?
On Wednesday, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger mused about whether there will be much of a homefield advantage in the playoffs this year—and whether it will be an advantage for the teams that are permitted to have some of their season ticket holders attend games.
But mostly he lamented the idea of Steelers supporters missing out on the playoff experience.
“I hate it for the fans,” he said. “I think about what Heinz Field would be like Sunday night. Anyone who has been there knows how special it would be. I hate it for them. I hate it for the Steelers, for the energy and excitement that it brings. But once again, that is what we are doing. That is what we are living in.”
As for the aforementioned Van Pelt, if you don’t remember him it’s probably because he never played a game for the Steelers. But he managed to last nine seasons in the NFL as a backup for the Buffalo Bills. During that time he appeared in 31 games and made 11 starts, most of those coming in 2001 when he started eight games. He compiled a record of 3-8 and completed 262 of 477 passes (54.9%) for 2,985 yards with 16 touchdowns and 24 interceptions.
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