Steelers RB Archer a healthy inactive despite depleted backfield
CINCINNATI — If Steelers are looking to lessen Le’Veon Bell’s workload, it’s not going to happen against the Bengals.
The Steelers (7-5) will dress only two running backs – Bell and rookie Josh Harris – for Sunday’s key AFC North showdown against the Bengals (8-3-1) after deciding to make rookie running back Dri Archer a healthy inactive for the first time this year.
Bell has taken the majority of the snaps ever since the Steelers decided to cut ties with LeGarrette Blount following the Nov. 17 game against the Titans.
Bell touched the ball 29 times last week and played 88 of 90 snaps. He once had a 50-touch game in college at Michigan State.
“I can’t think eight years down the line,” Bell said. “I have to think about now.”
The Steelers could turn to fullback/tight end Will Johnson in a pinch. Johnson has four carries in three years. Harris has never played an offensive snap in his short career.
The Steelers decided to dress an extra linebacker instead of Archer because Ryan Shazier will return for the first time since injuring his ankle against the Ravens on Nov. 2.
That and the fact that the Steelers will be without injured linebacker James Harrison (knee) forced the Steelers to dress eight linebackers.
Harrison is inactive a week after playing his most snaps (54) since coming out of retirement a month into the season allowing last year’s first-round pick Jarvis Jones to reclaim the starting right outside linebacker position.
Jones was activated from the injured reserve/designated to return list on Saturday – 11 weeks after having pins inserted into his dislocated wrist. Harrison’s injury will give Arthur Moats more playing time as well.
Nose tackle Steve McLendon returns after missing two straight games with a shoulder injury and should bolster a defensive line missing Brett Keisel.
Other Steelers inactives are WR Justin Brown, CB C.W. Webb, DE Clifton Geathers and T Marcus Gilbert.