Steelers Guard Ruled ‘Out’ Against Bengals

James Conner

Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images James Conner of the Pittsburgh Steelers carries the ball against the Buffalo Bills on December 13, 2020.

On Saturday the Pittsburgh Steelers (11-2) practiced outside for the first time this week, but again, rookie offensive guard Kevin Dotson did not practice, and has already been ruled out of Monday night’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals (2-10-1).

Dotson sustained a shoulder injury this past Sunday night against the Bengals, and with fellow guard Matt Feiler incurring a pectoral injury in the same game and now on injured reserve, Pittsburgh is getting deep into its depth at guard.

But that’s not the only significant injury on offense, as running back James Conner was listed as questionable for Monday’s game with a quadriceps injury. Conner did not practice on Thursday and was a limited participant on both Friday and Saturday, hence the designation.

It’s bad news for an offense with a struggling running game that needs to improve if the Steelers hope to make a Super Bowl run.

Projected Replacements for Kevin Dotson, James Conner

Of course, Kevin Dotson would be starting at left guard on Monday night, if healthy enough to play. Without him, there are a number of candidates the Steelers could turn to, though none are particularly enviable options.

Most likely, Mike Tomlin will start backup center J.C. Hassenauer at left guard. While the Steelers haven’t tipped their hand as to who will be starting, Pittsburgh held a tryout with free agent center Zach Shackelford on Friday. That tryout—the second workout the Steelers have held for Shackelford in the past several weeks—indicates the team is looking to add another center to the practice squad, which it would want to do if it exposes Hassenhauer to injury by utilizing him as a starter.

The Steelers could also start reserve lineman Derwin Gray, the team’s seventh-round pick in 2019, though most of Gray’s experience is at tackle. Pittsburgh might also turn to Danny Isadora, who was signed off the practice squad of the Kansas City Chiefs less than a week ago.

Meanwhile, if Conner can’t go on Monday, the Steelers figure to start second-year RB Benny Snell Jr. against the Bengals, despite his 3.3 yards per carry average. That’s because there aren’t any better options. Third-year back Jaylen Samuels has just eight carries for 24 yards this season, and rookie Anthony McFarland is averaging just 3.4 yards per carry this year. Anyway, McFarland seems to have fallen behind the rest of the running back rotation, as he was deactivated for the Bills game.

The Rest of Pittsburgh’s Injury/Participation Report

As for the remainder of Pittsburgh’s injury report, it’s all seemingly good news. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was a full participant in practice on both Friday and Saturday, after he dismissed reports of a knee injury that was supposedly “trending in the wrong direction.”

Starting cornerback Joe Haden also seems poised to return to the lineup on Monday night after missing the loss to the Buffalo Bills with a concussion. (Haden was a full participant in practice all three days. He also seemed to confirm he’ll be back via his response to a fan on Twitter.)

Finally, backup safety Sean Davis was a full participant in practice on both Friday and Saturday after being held out on Wednesday with an unspecified illness.

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