Steelers Place 2 Starters on Injured Reserve, Re-Sign 3

Stephon Tuitt

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images Stephon Tuitt at Heinz Field on July 28, 2021.

On Wednesday afternoon the Pittsburgh Steelers signed 15 players to their practice squad, including a former first-round draft pick, that being safety Karl Joseph (Raiders/Browns). But that was just the beginning of a busy day of transactions that also included placing three players on the Reserve/Injured list, including two starters.

One of the moves had been rumored since Tuesday, when Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that the Steelers were “considering” putting star defensive end Stephon Tuitt on injured reserve, thanks to a knee injury that is expected to “bother him for a while.”

But it might be a little more than just a knee issue. According to Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, defensive coordinator Keith Butler admitted on Wednesday that Tuitt might also be “a little overweight from inactivity and lack of work …” as he is also grieving over the death of his brother, who was killed in a tragic hit-and-run accident in June.

Zach Banner and Anthony McFarland, Too

The other two players to land on injured reserve today were starting right tackle Zach Banner and second-string running back Anthony McFarland Jr., both of whom have missed time with injuries in training camp and the preseason.

Banner is the more concerning of the two situations, in part because the Steelers already have significant questions marks on the offensive line. And while the nature of his injury has not been made public, it could very well be that he isn’t ready to return from the torn ACL he suffered in the season-opener against the New York Giants last September. Or perhaps he has had a setback in his recovery.

Regardless, the Steelers are tentatively planning to move forward with Chukwuma Okorafor at right tackle (where he made 15 starts last season), with rookie fourth-round pick Dan Moore Jr. penciled in at left tackle.

As for McFarland, the Steelers can no doubt get by without him for the three games (minimum) that he will be on injured reserve. Rookie first-round pick Najee Harris figures to get the lion’s share of the carries anyway, and the Steelers have several other veteran backups they can call on to spell Harris, with Benny Snell Jr. likely the first in line, followed by ex-Chargers and Dolphins running back Kalen Ballage.

Tuitt, Banner and McFarland are eligible to return to the lineup as soon as the team’s Week 4 game at Green Bay.

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Taking the Place of Tuitt, Banner and McFarland …

With three open roster spots, the Steelers moved quickly to fill them with players who were released on Tuesday, namely offensive linemen Rashaad Coward and B.J. Finney and defensive back Arthur Maulet.

The Steelers originally signed Coward, 26, to a one-year contract in late March, and he worked with the first-team offensive line through all of minicamp and much of training camp.

As for Finney, 29, he came back to the Steelers in March after spending a year with the Seattle Seahawks/Cincinnati Bengals—never playing a snap on offense for either. In June, Finney claimed he was ‘feeling like his old self’ after offseason hernia surgery, but that remains to be seen.

Last but not least, there’s Arthur Maulet, 28, who was competing for the job of slot cornerback before he suffered an ankle injury in preseason game #3 against the Detroit Lions. The Steelers originally inked Maulet in May, coming off a season in which he started five games for the New York Jets.

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