Only a little happened in the Steelers 2023 season opener that fans will want to remember. However, it was one of those games in which when it rains, it pours. Not only did they play poorly, but as the game progressed, injuries mounted quickly. How those things work sometimes in tandem is a mystery; nonetheless, the Steelers will lose one of their defensive stars for eight weeks. It's similar to how the Steelers lost T.J. Watt in 2022 for eight weeks in the season opener.
Even though the Steelers get an extra rest day this week, as they play on Monday night, it's unlikely the extra day will help in getting anyone back on the field for the game. Thus, the Steelers will probably be without two starters as they take to the field against the Cleveland Browns.
Cam Heyward, DT: out (groin)
A painful loss for the Steelers, Cam Heyward must undergo surgery for his groin injury. The Steelers placed him on the reserved/injured list. Estimated reports are that he will miss up to eight weeks. The big question is who fills his shoes in his absence. One possibility is that DeMarvin could fill in, but Leal suffered an injury in the 49ers game; however, he did not appear on the weekly injury list, which is a promising sign. If not Leal, then Isaiahh Loudermilk or Keeanu Benton have their work cut out for them while Heyward is out.
Now that said, some online rumors have said the Steelers might consider coaxing J.J. Watt out of retirement if Cam is out for eight weeks. While an entertaining thought, it seems the ship has sailed on J.J. Watt returning to the NFL, but crazier things have happened. Although it would not be like the Steelers to pull a move like that, as much as fans would like to see J.J. Watt and T.J. Watt play alongside each other for one season.
Diontae Johnson, WR: doubtful (hamstring)
According to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, early projections have Diontae Johnson out for up to four weeks. Mike Tomlin played it down a little, opening the door that he could return sooner. While not placed on the reserve/injured list, he didn't practice.
Still, it could be a better omen to start the season, considering the Steelers passing attack against the 49ers was lukewarm at best. However, that said, it gives George Pickens, Calvin Austin, and Allen Robinson a chance to step up and make big plays with Johnson out.
Pat Freiermuth, TE: questionable (chest)
Despite his injury late in the 2nd quarter, we got good news at Mike Tomlin’s press conference on Tuesday that Pat Freiermuth would be practicing this week ahead of the Cleveland game; however, the Steelers will limit him in the early part of the week. Hence, he may be able to play Monday night.
That said, the Steelers could limit him Monday night to situational positions, perhaps. Thus, Conner Heyward and Darnell Washington need to step up if called upon to pick up any slack created by his injury.
Chukwuma Okorafor, OT: questionable (concussion)
All concussions are very serious. Thus, the doctors will decide to allow Okorafor to return. However, he had a limited practice, which indicates doctors will probably clear him to play on Monday against Cleveland. If, for any reason, he can't play, look for Dan Moore to move to right tackle and Brodrick Jones to play the left tackle.
Larry Ogunjobi, DT: questionable (foot)
If it is promising DeMarvin Leal did not get listed on the injury report, Larry Ogunjobi did find his way on the report to a foot injury. The plus side is he did have a limited at least keeping the door open for him to Play on Monday. The Steelers can not afford to lose any further defensive linemen with Cam Heyward out for several weeks.
James Daniels. G: questionable (ankle)
James Daniels injured his knee, which would test the Steelers offensive line very early in the season if it was serious. Fortunately, he did practice, even if it was limited. Hence, it's possible all of the starting offensive linemen could play Monday. The longer they stay healthy, the quicker the unit gels, which helps the Steelers offense
Anthony McFarland, RB: questionable (knee)
Not the worst possible injury for the Steelers given McFarland is the 3rd string running back. He also did not practice Thursday. We will have to keep an eye on the injury report to see if he returns to practice, though it is likely he might not play on Monday.
It's always disappointing when the Steelers have many injuries in the season's first game. However, the injuries should come early, allowing them to heal and return to make a run down the stretch. T.J. Watt came back mid-season last season, which made all the difference. So, keep an eye on the injury report to see if there are any updates before game day.