The Pittsburgh Steelers have made several roster moves Saturday ahead of tomorrow’s game against the Cleveland Browns. They are:
Activated From IR
TE Pat Freiermuth
Placed On IR
S Keanu Neal
Signed To 53-Man Roster
LB Mykal Walker
Elevated From Practice Squad To Active/Inactive Roster
LB Tariq Carpenter
S Trenton Thompson
Freiermuth has missed the last five games with a hamstring injury he suffered in Week Four against the Houston Texans. NFL insider Tom Pelissero reported this morning that the Steelers planned to activate him off IR. He has eight catches for 53 yards and two touchdowns this season for the Steelers, and his return should hopefully provide a red zone target and a presence over the middle of the field for QB Kenny Pickett. Freiermuth will look to get back on track after a slow start to the season was further hampered by the hamstring injury, which he re-aggravated in practice ahead of Week Seven.
With LBs Cole Holcomb and Kwon Alexander suffering season-ending injuries, Walker provides a veteran presence who had 107 tackles for the Atlanta Falcons this year. He’s also someone who can cover a little bit, with 11 passes defensed in his career, including six last season. He’s an intriguing add who was on Pittsburgh’s practice squad due to his prior experience and success in the NFL, per Mike Tomlin.
“Walker is a guy who played in Atlanta and had 100-plus tackles or whatever a year ago in the National Football League. He’s not on our practice squad for development,” Tomlin said during his press conference on Tuesday.
Walker is expected to be in Pittsburgh’s inside linebacker rotation with Elandon Roberts and Mark Robinson. Neither Roberts nor Robinson are known for their coverage ability, so that’s an area where Walker could look to thrive and earn a role for the rest of the season. The fact he’s an accomplished tackler with three years of NFL experience helps. He’s also been with Pittsburgh since October 30, so he should have a solid grasp on the playbook by now.
Neal suffered a rib injury returning an interception in the Steelers’ Week Ten win over the Green Bay Packers. He had an MRI on Monday and did not practice all week, ruled out of tomorrow’s game on Friday. Now, he will miss at least the next four games.
Carpenter was elevated last week and played on special teams, recording one tackle on kick coverage. Thompson was also elevated last week and played seven snaps on defense on the Steelers’ final drive. He is expected to start at safety opposite Damontae Kazee with Neal now on IR and FS Minkah Fitzpatrick already ruled out. Elijah Riley and Milles Killebrew are other safety options. This will be Thompson’s first career start and only third NFL game he’s played in.
While the Steelers have a list of injuries, the Browns will be without QB Deshaun Watson, out for the season due to a fractured shoulder.
Pittsburgh and Cleveland kickoff tomorrow at 1 PM/EST. Both teams enter the game at 6-3, making this a critical AFC North matchup.