Pittsburgh Steelers guard David DeCastro and wide receiver Diontae Johnson both did not participate in practice Thursday.
DeCastro has been battling a knee injury which has continuously sidelined him throughout training camp, while Johnson was kept off the practice field with a foot injury.
While DeCastro’s lingering knee ailment puts the two-time All-Pro’s status for Monday season opener against the New York Giants in jeopardy, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin reiterated his confidence that they have the depth to overcome his absence if necessary.
“No clarity as I sit here today, and I am comfortable with the depth there,” said Tomlin. “Obviously an inclusion of David DeCastro in game planning and play is significant.”
If DeCastro does miss the opener, he would likely be replaced by veteran offensive lineman Stefen Wisniewski, who has earned valuable reps with the first-team offense spelling DeCastro throughout training camp.
“I have learned in my years in the NFL be ready for anything,” said Wisniewski. “It does look like at this point I will be the backup swing guy at both guards and center. I’ll embrace that role. I do believe I am capable of being a starter in this league. I think I have proven that.”
With Johnson’s foot injury appearing to be a new issue, rookie wide receiver Chase Claypool could see an expanded role against New York.
Other than the absences of DeCastro and Johnson on Thursday, the Steelers are relatively healthy heading into the 2020 season.
As for the Giants, linebacker Markus Golden missed Thursday’s practice with an illness, while defensive back Adrian Colbert was limited with a similar ailment. No indication was given whether their absence was COVID-19 related.
Wide receiver Golden Tate, linebacker Tae Crowder and tight end Levine Toilolo were also limited, all battling hamstring injuries.
Alex Highsmith Needs MRI after Ankle Injury Suffered vs. Browns
PITTSBURGH — Steelers rookie linebacker Alex Highsmith suffered an ankle injury that will require an MRI in Sunday’s playoff loss to the Cleveland Browns.
Highsmith left the game in the first half and was seen limping on the Pittsburgh sideline. He made an attempt to return to the game, but was unable to continue playing and did not see the field at all in the second half.
In-game, the Steelers announced that Highsmith was doubtful to return with an ankle injury. After the fact, head coach Mike Tomlin said that Highsmith suffered a high ankle sprain. Highsmith’s father posted on Twitter early on Monday morning that Highsmith will require an MRI on his injured ankle.
Not the way we wanted the season to end but I am thankful to have been a part of this amazing ride! The Highsmith Family is proud to wear the Black & Gold and we look forward to more success in the future! Please pray for Alex as he gets an MRI tomorrow on his ankle! #HereWeGo pic.twitter.com/JJA4PpZpvx
— Sam Highsmith (@SHighsmithClan) January 11, 2021
Given that Highsmith was able to walk and even run in short bursts after the injury, it does not seem likely that it will impact his offseason training plans.
The team’s third-round draft pick out of Charlotte, Highsmith was thrust into a starting role after starting outside linebacker Bud Dupree suffered an ACL injury that required surgery.
On the season, Highsmith played in 16 regular season game and made five starts. He finished with 48 tackles, five for a loss, six quarterback hits, one interception and one pass defended.
With Dupree set to become an unrestricted free agent and unlikely to return, Highsmith should be expected to retain his starting role in 2021.
Steelers OLB Alex Highsmith Leaves Game with Ankle Injury, Doubtful to Return
PITTSBURGH — Steelers outside linebacker Alex Highsmith has left the team’s Wild Card Round playoff game against the Cleveland Browns with an ankle injury and is doubtful to return, the team announced.
Highsmith suffered the injury in the first half and attempted to return to play, but was unable to continue.
He was replaced on the field by a combination of third-year backup Ola Adeniyi and Cassius Marsh, who was signed from the Indianapolis practice squad in December.
Highsmith had been replacing starter Bud Dupree, who was lost for the season to an ACL injury.
The rookie out of Charlotte was the Steelers’ third-round selection in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Steelers Injury Updates: JuJu Smith-Schuster Practiced Fully Friday, Chris Boswell Limited
The Pittsburgh Steelers are relatively healthy entering their opening round playoff matchup with the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, as only kicker Chris Boswell was listed on the team’s injury report as being less than a full participant in practice on Friday.
Boswell was limited on Friday as he continues to recover from the groin injury that has forced him to miss the last two games. He was also limited on Wednesday, but was a full participant during Thursday’s session.
Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (knee) returned to the practice field Friday after sitting out on Thursday. He had practiced fully on Wednesday as well, but was newly added yesterday.
Defensive end Isaiah Buggs (illness) was also added to the injury report Thursday, but was a full participant on Friday.
Safety Terrell Edmunds (shoulder), cornerback Steven Nelson (knee), nose tackle Tyson Alualu (ankle) and linebacker Vince Williams (quad) were all full participants during Friday’s practice session as well, positioning the Steelers to be healthy heading into Sunday’s playoff game against the Browns.