The Steelers defense will be missing plenty of talent to close out the regular season.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are the AFC North champs. Despite foul play to close out their final fours weeks, an 11-0 start now has granted them the title with a 28-24 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.
Seeding in the AFC is far less important than that in the NFC. With the Kansas City Chiefs at 14-1, the battle to Tampa Bay will run through Arrowhead Stadium. Therefore, the Steel City should rest those who could be essential to team’s success in 2021.
Ben Roethlisberger was officially ruled inactive earlier this week by Steelers coach Mike Tomlin. Now, three more Pittsburgh players will join him.
In addition to Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers will not play C Maurkice Pouncey, OLB T.J. Watt and DE Cam Heyward against the Browns on Sunday.
— Gerry Dulac (@gerrydulac) December 31, 2020
Offensive lineman Maurkice Pouncey, linebacker T.J. Watt and defensive end Cameron Heyward all will be out for the season finale against the Cleveland Browns. The Browns are in a must-win situation to make the postseason following their surprising loss to the New York Jets.
The game as a whole might be in jeopardy following another COVID-19 outbreak at the team’s facility this week. The Browns played on Sunday without their top four receiving options.
Should the Steelers be concerned?
The Steelers are expected to start third-year pro Mason Rudolph under center. There’s a lingering history between the former Oklahoma State star and the Browns, specifically with former No.1 overall pick Myles Garrett.
Garrett was suspended last season in Week 10 following an altercation in which he hit Rudolph in the head with his own helmet.
The real storyline will be on Watt, who could be in the running for Defensive Player of the Year. The younger brother of three-time winner, J.J., T.J. has been one of the scariest players to grace the gridiron against opposing offenses.
Watt this season has recorded 15 sacks, 26 tackles for a loss, two forced fumbles and one interception in 2020, all career-highs since being drafted in 2017.
.@_TJWatt is the:
• 1️⃣st player in #SteelersHistory with 14.0+ sacks in multiple seasons
• 7️⃣th player to register at least 15.0 sacks & 24 TFL in a single season since 1999
• 1️⃣4️⃣th player in NFL history with at least 14.5 sacks in back-to-back seasons pic.twitter.com/6IlziVOd6J
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) December 28, 2020
“T.J.’s visiting from another planet, to be quite honest with you,” Tomlin said on Watt. “He has freakishly unique talent coupled with freakishly unique work habits and mindset and it produces what you guys witness every week, which, in my opinion, is defensive player of the year quality.”
The Steelers have nothing to play for but pride. Meanwhile, perhaps after a long history of taking down the Browns, they’re here to help the little brothers of the division break and 18-year streak.
Either way, things are looking mixed, but somehow positive for the Browns entering the season finale.