The Pittsburgh Steelers have ruled tight end Pat Freiermuth, inside linebacker Buddy Johnson and defensive end Chris Wormley out of Sunday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs, the team announced Friday afternoon.
Freiermuth did not practice all week and remains in the NFL concussion protocol after a hard, high hit from Tennessee Titans defensive back Kristian Fulton on Sunday. Zach Gentry is expected to start with Kevin Rader, who was a full participant in practice all week after missing the Titans game, slotted as the No. 2 tight end.
If the Steelers wish to dress a third tight end, practice squad member Jace Sternberger could be in line for a call-up. Reserve lineman Joe Haeg has also served as a jumbo tight end.
Wormley suffered a groin injury late against the Titans and also did not participate in practice this week. With the return of Montravius Adams Sr. from the COVID-19 list after missing the Tennessee game, Adams should be expected to start at nose tackle, with Henry Mondeaux moving from nose to end to replace Wormley. Carlos Davis and Isaiahh Loudermilk will likely serve as the team’s rotational defensive line depth.
Johnson was a full participant at Wednesday and Thursday’s practice, but was limited on Friday but a foot injury before being ruled out. He also missed the Titans game.
His absence will leave the Steelers extremely thin at inside linebacker, with starter Devin Bush and backup and Dime linebacker Marcus Allen both on the COVID-19 reserve list. Robert Spillane will be expected to start alongside Joe Schobert, with Ulysees Gilbert III the lone depth option. Strong safety Miles Killebrew has also played inside linebacker and would be an emergency option.
The Steelers do not have an inside linebacker on their practice squad, though Jacob Tuioti-Mariner did play some off-ball linebacker in a 4-3 alignment when he played for Atlanta.
Other than the three players that have been ruled out, no other Steelers player has an injury designation for the Kansas City game. Tackle Dan Moore Jr., who was limited by an illness on Thursday, was a full participant Friday.