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Steelers salute military, look to healthy players against Bills

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By Christina Rivers

The Pittsburgh Steelers return to Heinz Field on Sunday November 13, to face the Buffalo Bills in a game that is as much about courage as any. Honoring active military and veterans, the Steelers also look inward for heart of their own to pull themselves out of a 2-6 hole on the 2013 NFL regular season. With Mike Adams and Marcus Gilbert ‘questionable’ and eight players ‘probable’, the Steelers will need all hands on deck to mount the proper offense and defense against a Buffalo team that comes off a loss to the still-undefeated Kansas City Chiefs last weekend.

FOXBORO, MA - NOVEMBER 03:  Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers throws a pass against the New England Patriots in the third quarter at Gillette Stadium on November 3, 2013 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

(Credit, Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

The Steelers defense has struggled at times stopping the deep pass, but also the run. Looking for help, Pittsburgh added cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke. Placing Sean Spence on the injured-reserve list moved linebacker Stevenson Sylvester up the roster in place of rookie Vince Williams who suffered a concussion in the loss to New England.

“They haven’t given me the nod or anything like that,” Sylvester said about starting Sunday’s game. “They just have me taking reps and just getting ready to play if it’s necessary, which should be done every week…”

Cornerback Ike Taylor, who also suffered a concussion during play against the Patriots participated fully in practice beginning Thursday and said, “I’m ready.” He admitted that the decision on whether he will play or not will come down to a decision by head coach Mike Tomlin and head athletic trainer John Norwig, but that he felt good enough to play.

The Bills are seventh in rushing and 28th in passing this season, with E.J. Manuel becoming the first rookie quarterback in NFL history to start and beat a defending Super Bowl champion – the Baltimore Ravens. Since that time, Manuel has spent time on the sidelines with a knee injury, but will start on Sunday, according to Bills coach Doug Marone.

Running backs C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson continue to put up big numbers rushing (478 and 502 yards respectively). One thing that Marone does not want is Manuel getting hit, which may give the Steelers extra incentive when pressuring the Bills.

Offensively, coordinator Todd Haley said that the Steelers are working on forging an identity.

“We need to just come together as a group and do a better job.”

Offensive guard Kelvin Beachum, who was limited on Wednesday in practice due to a knee contusion, is expected to start on Sunday.

“He’s our left tackle now,” said Haley on Friday. “It’s his position and we’ll see what he does with it. He’s risen to the challenge…he’s been a very good weapon or luxury for us.”

Guard David DeCastro was able to practice all week despite a sore ankle and the Steelers look to have better health along the line as center Fernando Velasco (thigh) is probable for Sunday.

“We need to be better, we need to protect the quarterback,” said Haley, “and ultimately then Ben [Roethlisberger] has to protect himself when needed and when he can.” The offense is looking for a complete game this weekend. “We really haven’t played a complete game,” added Haley. “We’ve been close, we’ve shown flashes…We need to start that process this week.”

Honoring the military

The Steelers will pay homage to all veterans on Sunday, but will recognize one veteran from various wars as part of their Salute to Service. For Cortez Allen and Velasco, it is a bit more personal. Allen’s brother, United States Marine Staff Sergeant Jason Anthony, has served since 1999.

“What we do and what they do, any military force, there is no comparison,” said Allen. “A lot of times we take [their service] for granted…and how it affects us.”

Allen said he has the utmost respect for his brother, members of the US military and veterans. Velaco’s 24-year-old younger brother, Melvin Brookins, serves in the Air Force.

“Because we play football people think we are special or some tough, hero guys,” said Velasco. “What (Brooks) does, and the other service men and women do, is awesome.”

Injury recap

Questionable:

  • OT Mike Adams (ribs)
  • OT Marcus Gilbert (ankle)

Probable

  • OG Kelvin Beachum (knee)
  • OG David DeCastro (ankle)
  • DE Cameron Heyward (knee)
  • TE Heath Miller (not injury related)
  • CB Ike Taylor (concussion)
  • C/G Fernando Velasco (thigh)
  • WR Markus Wheaton (finger)
  • LB Vince Williams (concussion)

Bills Injury List

WR Marquise Goodwin (hamstring, probable), LB Manny Lawson (non injury related, questionable), QB Thad Lewis (ribs, probable), QB E.J. Manuel (knee, probable), DL Kyle Williams (Achilles, probable), WR Robert Woods (ankle, doubtful)

For more Steelers news and updates, visit Steelers Central.

 

Christina Rivers has covered the Pittsburgh Steelers and National Football League professionally as a reporter and photographer for over a decade. Rivers studied exercise physiology and sports psychology at Brigham Young University as a student-athlete. Christina is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. Her work can be found on
Examiner.com.