Steelers defensive lineman Cam Heyward, center Maurkice Pouncey and linebacker T.J. Watt will not travel with the team to Cleveland, team spokesperson Burt Lauten announced on Saturday.
The three Steelers veterans will join quarterback Ben Roethlisberger as relatively healthy players that the team will hold out of the season finale against the Browns. Kicker Chris Boswell (groin) and safety Terrell Edmunds (shoulder) will miss the game with injuries, while cornerback Joe Haden will not play after testing positive for COVID-19.
The Steelers do not have a lot at stake in the last game of the regular season. They have already clinched the AFC North and are locked into either the No. 2 or the No. 3 seed in the conference. They need to win against Cleveland and have Buffalo lose to Miami in order to earn the No. 2 seed.
The game means significantly more for the Browns, who can secure a Wild Card berth with a win and will see their chances of playing postseason football significantly dashed with a loss.
Mason Rudolph is expected to start in place of Roethlisberger. J.C. Hassenauer should be in line to once again replace Pouncey, as he has multiple times this season.
Ola Adeniyi is expected to return from an injury that held him out of the team’s Week 16 win over Indianapolis and will likely start opposite Alex Highsmith at outside linebacker.
Nose tackle Tyson Alualu will likely absorb some of Heyward’s sub package reps, as he did when fellow starting end Stephon Tuitt missed time earlier this season. Isaiah Buggs, Henry Mondeaux and Chris Wormey will provide depth.
Dime cornerback Cam Sutton will likely shift outside to replace Haden, with second-year backup Justin Layne moving into Sutton’s Dime role.
Matthew Wright is expected to be called up from the practice squad for the third time this season to replace Boswell, while Sean Davis will likely make his first start of the season at strong safety in place of Edmunds.