In order to make room on the roster, Pittsburgh has placed starting safety Keanu Neal on injured reserve. Neal joined his fourth team in as many years this offseason and has made the most of it, becoming a starter for the Steelers. He hasn’t had the strongest season, grading out as the league’s 62nd-best safety, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). Neal’s absence will likely mean a bigger role for fellow safety Damontae Kazee, who was teammates with Neal from 2017-2021 during stints in Atlanta and Dallas.
Lastly, the Steelers announced their standard gameday practice squad elevations for tomorrow’s game in Cleveland. The team will promote LB Tariq Carpenter and safety Trenton Thompson for the matchup. Thompson’s callup fills out the depth chart a bit with Neal gone. Carpenter will team up with Walker to provide some reinforcements at linebacker with Alexander hurt.
NOVEMBER 18, 8:45am: The quick ramp-up period will be sufficient for the Steelers, who will activate Freiermuth at the earliest opportunity. Freiermuth will end up spending the minimum four games on IR, with NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero indicating he will move back onto Pittsburgh’s active roster before this afternoon’s deadline. While the former second-round pick has not played since Week 4, a hamstring aggravation is responsible for the extended absence. This transaction will leave the Steelers with four IR activations remaining.
NOVEMBER 15: Pat Freiermuth‘s third NFL season has not gone as hoped, but the Steelers are moving closer to having their tight end ready for the stretch run. The team designated the young pass catcher for return Wednesday.
This will start Feiermuth’s 21-day activation clock. The Steelers placed Freiermuth on IR due to a hamstring injury last month. While Freiermuth did not initially land on IR due to the injury, an aggravation led to the Steelers moving him off their 53-man roster.
The Steelers have moved to 6-3 despite persistent struggles on offense, but the team has missed Freiermuth and Diontae Johnson for extended chunks of the season. Johnson returned from his hamstring injury weeks ago, and it appears another activation will soon commence after a hamstring malady. This will be good news for Kenny Pickett, who targeted the 2021 second-round pick frequently in his first season as Pittsburgh’s starter.
Last year, Freiermuth finished with 63 receptions for 732 yards and two touchdowns. While his yards-per-reception and touchdown numbers were down compared to his rookie year, the Penn State product’s yardage total dwarfed his rookie-year number (497). Pickett and Mitch Trubisky targeted the talented tight end regularly, and the Steelers came into this season expecting another steady showing from the 6-foot-5 weapon.
Freiermuth has not played since Week 4, and he struggled to find his footing in the latest Matt Canada-run Pittsburgh offense. Freiermuth finished three games with fewer than 10 receiving yards, and although Week 4 involved an early exit, Weeks 1 and 2 brought sluggish outings. Freiermuth has eight receptions for 53 yards and two TDs this season. In his absence, the Steelers have seen Connor Heyward work as their top receiving tight end. The second-year option has 17 catches for 137 yards. Third-round rookie Darnell Washington has not factored in prominently, exiting Week 10 with three grabs for 23 yards.
Following the 53-man roster cutdown deadline Tuesday, many teams will make slight tweaks to their rosters. In addition to waiver claims, teams can begin constructing their 16-man practice squads today. These Bears, Lions, Packers and Vikings moves are noted below.
Ben Burr-Kirven was a fifth-round pick by the Seahawks back in 2019, and he transformed into a key special teamer through his first two seasons in the NFL. However, he suffered a knee injury during the 2021 preseason that ended up wiping out that entire season. The issues persisted in 2022, and after spending that year on PUP, he was ultimately released in March. Coach Pete Carroll apparently reversed course and ended up bringing back the linebacker.
“He’s in a little bit of an experimental mode,” Carroll said earlier this year (via the team’s website). “The surgeries that he has had and the process he is going through, he is making progress. He’s always in the weight room with us. He’s always here working with a tremendous mentality. The nerve issues, really intricate stuff going on, so he’s had to have a really good attitude about it to stay in the fight and he is. He’s planning on getting back out there. So, we are going to give him every chance. If he can do it, this is going to be the place that he does it.”
Xavier Henderson was released today with an injury settlement, according to Nicki Jhabvala of the Washington Post (via Twitter). The undrafted free agent landed on the physically unable to perform list earlier this week.
Isaiah Wilson hasn’t had an NFL gig since he was released by the Giants in January of 2022. NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero tweets that the free agent lineman was slapped with a three-game suspension, but it’s uncertain what led to the temporary ban. Wilson was a first-round pick by the Titans in 2020 but got into only one game with Tennessee before getting shipped off to Miami. He was waived by Miami after showing up late to his team physical, and his practice squad stint with New York only lasted one season.
Max Garcia is an experienced addition to the Saints OL room, with the veteran having most recently started seven of his 12 appearances with the Cardinals in 2022. The 31-year-old has 59 games of starting experience, although Pro Football Focus was iffy on his production last year (63rd among 77 qualifying offensive guards).
Following a three-year stint in Cleveland, Terrance Mitchell has spent the past two seasons bouncing around the NFL. He got into 14 games (13 starts) for the Texans in 2021, finishing with 60 tackles and 10 passes defended. He spent the 2022 season with the Titans, finishing with 39 tackles in 11 games (five starts). 49ers fifth-round pick Darrell Luter Jr. is set to miss some time with a knee injury, providing Mitchell with an opportunity during training camp.