On Saturday the Pittsburgh Steelers revealed that starting outside linebacker Alex Highsmith will play when the team takes on the Buffalo Bills in the season-opener at Highmark Stadium.
As such, Pittsburgh will have its full complement of outside linebackers on Sunday. As recently as the middle of the week, that eventuality remained very much in doubt, as Highsmith has been battling a groin injury that kept him from practicing on Thursday.
At the same time, the agents for fellow outside linebacker T.J. Watt were wrapping up “extremely difficult” contract negotiations that left his status for Sunday somewhat in doubt. That is, until Watt inked a record-breaking four-year contract extension that makes him the highest paid defensive player in the NFL.
As for the three other Steelers players who have been on the team’s injury report this week, it seems that all are going to play vs. the Bills. Nose tackle Tyson Alualu and rookie center Kendrick Green have been dealing with elbow and thumb injuries, respectively, but both were full participants in practice on Thursday and Friday. The only other concern is for No. 4 wide receiver James Washington, who has a finger injury that kept him ‘limited’ in practice on Friday.
Of course, defensive tackle Stephon Tuitt, offensive tackle Zach Banner and running back Anthony McFarland will not be in uniform, as all three are on the Reserve/Injured list and aren’t eligible to return until early October.
Former Steelers Wide Receiver Emmanuel Sanders is ‘Questionable’
It’s a 50/50 proposition as to whether Pittsburgh’s defensive backs will have to chase former Steelers receiver Emmanuel Sanders all over the field on Sunday. Sanders is listed as ‘questionable’ on Buffalo’s injury report, after having been limited in practice all week with a foot injury.
The Bills signed Sanders in mid-March, a week after he was released by the New Orleans Saints, who employed him in 2020. Of course, the 12-year veteran started his NFL career in Pittsburgh in 2010, where ‘Easy Money’ Sanders was part of ‘The Young Money Crew’ of Steelers receivers that also included Hines ‘Old Money’ Ward, Antonio ‘Cash Money’ Brown and Mike ‘Fast Money’ Wallace.
The Bills Have One Other Injury
Meanwhile, the Bills have already ruled out defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, who has a calf injury. Lotulelei was a COVID-19 opt-out in 2020. His last regular-season game action came in 2019, when he started 16 games and recorded 19 total tackles (12 solo), with two sacks, three tackles for loss and three quarterback hits, plus one interception and one pass defensed.
Regardless, the more Buffalo has to get into its interior line depth, the better it is for Pittsburgh’s 2021 third-round pick Kendrick Green, who will be making his regular-season debut, as will rookie left tackle Dan Moore Jr., who was a fourth-round pick of the Steelers in the 2021 NFL Draft.
The Steelers are also expected to start at least two other rookies on Sunday, those being first-round running back Najee Harris and seventh-round punter Pressley Harvin III. This year’s second-round pick Pat Freiermuth might also start (at tight end); Freiermuth is listed as co-starter with established veteran Eric Ebron, who is in a contract year this season.
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