PITTSBURGH -- Analysis from the Patriots' inactive players today:
1. Running back Kevin Faulk and defensive lineman Brandon Deaderick, who were promoted off the physically unable to perform list, are both active. Faulk figures to cut into Danny Woodhead's playing time, and his presence also led to Shane Vereen's deactivation, while Deaderick offers depth up front.
2. Linebacker Jerod Mayo, who has been out since spraining his MCL against Oakland on Oct. 2, is active. That should lead to a top combination of Mayo, Brandon Spikes and Rob Ninkovich at linebacker in the base 4-3 defense. Mayo leads the defensive huddle and his return likely bumps Gary Guyton back to a backup role.
3. Offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer is active for the first time since the second week against the Chargers. It could be a rotation-type situation with rookie Nate Solder at right tackle. With Vollmer active, it makes Vollmer/Solder the third tackle, and leads to Donald Thomas' deactivation. Ryan Wendell is the top backup at center/guard.
4. Second-year defensive end Jermaine Cunningham (2nd round, 2010) is a healthy scratch. He's hardly been playing on defense at right defensive end, with Andre Carter taking those reps. He played about 50 percent of the snaps last season, but has regressed this year. Cunningham has been playing on the punt return unit, so that role will be filled elsewhere.
5. Receiver Julian Edelman, who has been sidelined with an ankle injury but wasn't on the injury report this week, is alsoa healthy scratch. That's a bit of a surprise. Rookie running back Stevan Ridley has been taking kickoff returns in his place, while Wes Welker has been handling punt returns. It's possible Kevin Faulk could get into the punt return mix. This could be a case of the Patriots wanting to go bigger at receiver, with Taylor Price/Chad Ochocinco over Edelman as backup options.