On Saturday the Pittsburgh Steelers activated inside linebacker Robert Spillane and offensive guard Matt Feiler off the injured reserve list, paving the way for them to return to action against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday night.
Spillane injured a knee against Washington on December 7th and was placed on IR on December 12th. Feiler suffered a pectoral injury against the Buffalo Bills on December 13th and was placed on injured reserve a day later. Neither has played since.
Spillane’s return could be particularly beneficial, particularly in light of Cleveland’s strong running game, which finished the 2020 regular season third in the NFL in rushing yards (2,374), behind the Tennessee Titans and league-leading Baltimore Ravens.
Spillane and fellow inside linebacker Vince Williams ought to provide a solid 1-2 run-stopping combo on the inside, something Steelers fans might not have imagined before ILB Devin Bush suffered a season-ending ACL injury against the Browns at Heinz Field in October. But Spillane made a name for himself almost immediately with a goal line stop of Titans running back Derrick Henry on October 25th, one that earned him a seat in the front of the plane on the flight back from Nashville.
Like Spillane, Feiler was a part of all three of this week’s practices and seems likely to return on Sunday. The question is whether Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin will anoint him the starter at left guard (where he started 13 games before getting hurt), or whether he will be a reserve, with rookie guard Kevin Dotson taking his place on the line. Dotson has impressed with his pass protection in Feiler’s absence, so much so that he earned a spot on PFF’s 2020 All-Rookie Team.
Steelers Tight End Kevin Rader Elevated
On Saturday the Steelers also elevated tight end Kevin Rader from the practice squad to the active/inactive roster. Rader—who made his NFL debut last week in the season finale against the Browns—was praised by Tomlin during his press conference earlier this week.
“Guys like Kevin Rader had an opportunity to step up and play,” said Tomlin. “I think he had three tackles on kickoff. For an offensive player to have that type of contribution in net, in a coverage unit, I think was impressive. That’s good for him. That’s good for us as we move forward.”
To make room on the roster for Rader, the team waived inside inside linebacker Tegray Scales, who was signed by the Steelers on November 11th after inside linebacker Vince Williams was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list for the first time.
Scales played in the last four games of the regular season, almost exclusively on special teams.
Browns Activate 3 Players Off Reserve/COVID-19 List
On Saturday the Browns got three players back from the Reserve/COVID-19 list, those being tight end Harrison Bryant, safety Ronnie Harrison Jr. and linebacker Malcolm Smith. Meanwhile, the NFL determined that safety Jovante Moffatt was not a close contact so he remains on the active roster. (Moffatt was added to the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Friday.)
That said, Field Yates of ESPN has assembled a handy list of the players and coaches the Cleveland Browns will not have available on Sunday night.
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