It’s looking less and less likely that Pittsburgh Steelers placekicker Chris Boswell is going to be able to play against Washington on Monday, as the team has downgraded him to “doubtful” on its Week 13 injury/participation report. Also doubtful is starting cornerback Steven Nelson, who suffered a knee injury against the Baltimore Ravens on Wednesday and went for an MRI following that game.
Ben Roethlisberger Injury Update
But in positive news, Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger participated in the team’s walkthrough practice on Sunday and is “expected to play,” “barring an unforeseen setback.” Roethlisberger remains “questionable” on the team’s injury report and did not practice on either Friday or Saturday, instead “getting treatment for an injured knee.”
The situation with Roethlisberger is somewhat analogous to what unfolded the week prior to the November 15th game vs. Cincinnati, when Big Ben spent five days on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. He missed all of the team’s regular practices and was limited to a walkthrough the day before the game. Then he went out and posted arguably his best performance of the season, throwing for 333 yards and four touchdown passes—good enough for him to win AFC Offensive Player of the Week. Roethlisberger performed so well without practice time that he half-jokingly suggested to Steelers coach Mike Tomlin that he take “next week off too.”
Of course, the difference is that Roethlisberger was physically healthy coming into the Bengals game. If he can’t go on Monday, he’ll presumably be replaced by backup Mason Rudolph.
Meanwhile, recently-signed practice squad kicker Matthew Wright is expected to sub in for Boswell, with fourth-year cornerback Cam Sutton starting in place of Nelson.
Steelers COVID-19 Update
On Sunday there was also news surrounding No. 1 running back James Conner, who is eligible to come off the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Monday, but doesn’t appear ready to return against Washington. As such, Benny Snell Jr. is likely to make his second consecutive start in place of Conner, who has reportedly tested positive for the virus.
Conner is the second Steelers running back who is known to have tested positive for COVID-19 this season; in early September, third-year RB Jaylen Samuels admitted that he was positive for the virus in August.
In addition to Conner, two other Steelers players are currently on the Reserve/COVID-19 list and don’t figure to be available versus Washington: Center Maurkice Pouncey and reserve offensive tackle Jerald Hawkins.
Steelers Can Clinch a Playoff Berth on Monday
With a win or tie against Washington on Monday the Steelers can clinch a playoff berth, but the AFC North title will have to wait for at least another week. That’s because the Cleveland Browns (9-3) defeated the Tennessee Titans (8-4) on Sunday by a score of 41-35.
The Steelers would have punched a ticket to the playoff on Sunday had the Raiders, Dolphins or Colts suffered a loss, but all managed to win. Most notably, the Raiders (7-5) escaped New York with a 31-28 victory over the Jets (0-12), thanks to a 46-yard touchdown pass from Derek Carr to wide receiver Henry Ruggs with just five seconds remaining.
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