With their must-win game against the Cincinnati Bengals looming, the Pittsburgh Steelers will be at a serious deficit at the safety position.
According to the latest Steelers practice report, the team has officially ruled out All-Pro Minkah Fitzpatrick and backup Trenton Thompson. Add to the fact that Damaontae Kazee is currently serving a season-long suspension and Keeanu Neal is still on the team's injury reserve, which makes a total of four safeties unavailable to them in any capacity.
The Steelers are likely to start veteran cornerback Patrick Peterson, who took snaps at safety in their Week 15 defeat to the Indianapolis Colts, along with safety Eric Rowe and Miles Killebrew in their place.
Elijah Riley, who opened his 21-day window this week by returning to practice after being activated from the team's injured reserve list, is not guaranteed to play on Saturday. All indications point to the organization adding him back to the roster in the wake of today's announcement regarding running back Anthony McFarland Jr.'s release.
One should expect the Bengals offense to test the Steelers' new defensive back group often, even with standout receiver Ja'Marr Chase sidelined by a significant shoulder injury. The hope is that they make the plays necessary to help the team win, even when the odds are stacked against them.