PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers lost would-have-been Pro Bowler Bud Dupree in Week 12 due to a torn ACL. They currently have three starters on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. But the next stretch of their season poses their biggest injury threat.
Alex Highsmith steps into a starting role as a rookie after playing just 20% of the Steelers' defensive snaps prior to Week 12. J.C Hassenauer took over for Maurkice Pouncey after he was shut down for COVID-19. And now, there's some uncertainty with Steven Nelson.
A three-game stretch in the matter of 12 games was dangerous, to begin with. The Steelers hosted the Baltimore Ravens on Wednesday, will host the Washington Football Team on Monday and then travel to Buffalo to play the Bills in Week 14.
They'll likely be without Pouncey, and possibly James Conner, against Washington. So far, there's been no indication whether Conner has continued to test positive for COVID-19 since his first positive test last Friday.
Even if Conner does return this weekend, it's hard to imagine getting one day of practice clears his for Monday afternoon. Therefore, it's another Benny Snell Jr. show, with possibly some Conner mixed in there with Anthony McFarland.
Stephon Tuitt has yet to be activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 list, either. The defensive end was placed on the list last Friday but was believed to be "high risk" close contact with another positive case.
Tuitt would need five days, two negatives tests and no symptoms to return. This would have been Wednesday, but so far, he has not been taken off the list.
Pouncey will miss Monday afternoon against Washington after receiving a positive test on Wednesday morning. That means it's another game with Hassenauer at center.
Jumbo-tight end Jerald Hawkins is also on the Reserve/COVID-19 list.
And then, there's Steven Nelson. Nelson was added to the Steelers injury report on Thursday with a knee injury. Head coach Mike Tomlin said on Thursday morning that the cornerback received an MRI on his knee following the Ravens game, but didn't have an update to the status of the injury.
He did not practice Thursday or Friday. Missing another practice could mark the end of his Week 13 attempt to play. Adding another name to the starters not playing in this three-game stretch.
Justin Layne and Cam Sutton would take over on the outside in Nelson's absence.
The 4-7 Washington team isn't much of a threat to the Steelers. Despite some believing, this is a "trap game" for Pittsburgh. It looks more like another week against a poor team.
That changes some with a long list of inactives. Because, as of now, the Steelers are looking at a game without a starting running back, defensive end, center, outside linebacker and cornerback.