The Patriots made five players inactive ahead of Sunday’s matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and there aren’t any significant surprises this week.
The good news for New England is that veterans Adrian Phillips (ribs), Trent Brown (ankle), and Raekwon McMillan (thumb) are all active this week. The three vets came into today’s game as questionable but will play and give the Pats a similar look on defense and the offensive line as last week’s season-opener against the Dolphins.
With Brown active, the Patriots projected starting offensive line will remain intact: LT Trent Brown, LG Cole Strange, C David Andrews, RG Mike Onwenu, and RT Isaiah Wynn.
New England’s inactives mostly feature first-year players with CB Marcus Jones, QB Bailey Zappe, DL Sam Roberts, and OL Chasen Hines joining second-year safety Joshuah Bledsoe. Bledsoe did not make the trip to Pittsburgh and, as a result, was ruled out on Saturday.
Third-round pick Marcus Jones is a healthy inactive after playing four defensive snaps in the season-opener against the Dolphins. Defensively, Jones is behind starters Jalen Mills, Jonathan Jones, and Myles Bryant, while fellow first-year defensive back Jack Jones out-snapped him in Miami as well. With Bryant taking over as the primary punt returner, Jones’s most-likely path onto the game-day roster was erased for one of the best returners in college football a year ago.
Plus, the smaller Jones could be a healthy scratch this week because the Steelers feature Chase Claypool (6-4), rookie George Pickens (6-3), and Miles Boykin (6-4) along with Diontae Johnson at wide receiver. Rookie cornerback Jack Jones and second-year CB Shaun Wade are both active and could see reps at corner even over Myles Bryant to match up with a bigger group of Pittsburgh receivers. Wade is making his season debut.
At running back, the Patriots will fill Ty Montgomery’s role on the game-day roster with a hefty workload for Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson. Along with the two leaders, rookie running back Pierre Strong will make his NFL debut on Sunday against the Steelers.
Patriots third-year edge rusher Anfernee Jennings is active after he was a surprising healthy inactive last week. Jennings emerged this summer as a sturdy edge-setter, and could push Jahlani Tavai for that role this week.
As for the other three rookies on the list, they were also inactive last week vs. the Dolphins, so it’s not a major surprise to see them sit out Sunday’s game against the Steelers this week. New England will roll with veteran backups in quarterback Brian Hoyer, OL James Ferentz, and DT Carl Davis over the first-year players to provide depth on Sunday.
The Patriots and Steelers will kick off at Acrisure Field in Pittsburgh at 1pm ET on Sunday.