By Daniel Benjamin
The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Minnesota Vikings both have injury concerns on the defensive side of the ball heading into their Week 2 clash at Heinz Field on Sunday.
Pittsburgh and Minnesota’s defenses played well in each team’s season opening win, but there is a chance both teams could be without key players on that side of the ball in Week 2. The Steelers (1-0) are coming off a 21-18 victory over Cleveland as they limited the Browns to 237 total yards of offense (3.8 yards per play). The Steelers also recorded seven sacks, picked off one pass and held the Browns to 3-of-12 on third down conversions.
In the meantime, Minnesota gave up 19 points with 10 of those points coming in the fourth quarter—including a late touchdown—in its victory over New Orleans (29-19). The Vikings surrendered 344 total yards of offense, though they held the Saints to just 4-of-11 on third down conversions. The Vikings, who have a stellar defensive front four, totaled one sack last week.
Stephon Tuitt and J.J. Wilcox return to practice Friday
The Steelers upgraded defensive end Stephon Tuitt (bicep) and safety J.J. Wilcox (concussion) to questionable on Friday as both players participated in practice for the first time on Friday. Tuitt is reportedly gaining strength in his injured bicep, though did not participate in full contact drills. He did do some individual, however.
If Tuitt can’t go, Tyson Aluala, who has been a starter for the majority of his eight-year career, is expected to get the start. Aluala saw the majority of time at right end following Tuitt’s departure and recorded five tackles on Sunday. Third-year defensive end L.T. Walton would also likely see an increase in action. Walton has started four of the 17 games he has appeared in. He was credited with one tackle against Cleveland.
Depth at safety was a real concern on Thursday with Wilcox having yet to practice and starting strong safety Sean Davis being added to the injury list on Thursday with an ankle injury. It is encouraging that Wilcox was a limiting participant in practice, but he will be a game time decision. Wilcox was on the field for 20 snaps against the Browns.
Davis appears to be good to go as he is not listed on the report and was a full practice participant. The same can be said about starting outside linebacker Bud Dupree following two straight full practice days.
Vance McDonald unlikely to go against Vikings
Veteran tight end Vance McDonald was held out of practice on Thursday and Friday due to a back ailment. McDonald is currently the team’s No. 2 tight end behind Jesse James. The 27-year-old, who is a good pass catcher, was acquired from San Francisco prior to the end of the month. He played 19 snaps against Cleveland, dropping his lone pass that came his way.
McDonald’s absence means that James will be more involved in the offensive scheme against the Vikings, just like against the Browns.
Vikings Injury Report
Two of the three players listed on the report are defensive players. Linebacker Anthony Barr, who has been nursing a hamstring injury, practiced in a limited capacity for the first time on Friday. Barr, the Vikes’ starting strong side linebacker, is a key member of the defense and is expected to play Sunday. He recorded eight tackles in the season opener. Cornerback Xavier Rhodes (hip) is the other key defensive player listed as questionable. He was limited in practice on Thursday and Friday but is expected to play.
Quarterback Sam Bradford was limited in practice this week with a knee issue. Bradford, who also had a MRI recently, is slated to be under center on Sunday.
Steelers complete injury report
- OT Jerald Hawkins (Knee). Did Not Participate In Practice. Out.
- S J.J Wilcox (Concussion). Limited Practice Participation. Questionable.
- TE Vance McDonald (Back). Did Not Participate in Practice. Questionable.
- DE Stephon Tuitt (Biceps). Limited Practice Participation. Questionable.