By Daniel Benjamin
The Pittsburgh Steelers will be without four starters when they face the Detroit Lions Sunday night.
The Steelers offense, particularly the offensive line, is most affected by the missing players, as starting right tackle Marcus Gilbert and tight end Vance McDonald are two of the three players who will miss the game due to injury.
Gilbert has missed four of the last five games with a nagging hamstring issue. The 6-foot-6, 330-pounder originally tweaked the muscle in Week 2, and then came back for the Week 6 game against Kansas City, but exited after the first half after re-aggravating his injury and has not played since. He did not practice all week.
Chris Hubbard will once again start in place of Gilbert; he has done a good job in his previous five starts.
“He has been doing an excellent job,” center Maurkice Pouncey said of Hubbard. “He is playing multiple positions, guard, tackle, tight end. It’s not as easy as it looks. He is an accountable player, goes out there and gets his job done and works his butt off. I respect him a lot.”
McDonald suffered a knee injury sometime during the second half of last week’s game against Cincinnati. He has been an important part of the Steelers’ two tight end set, working mainly as a blocker. The 27-year-old has three receptions for 63 yards for the year. McDonald didn’t practice at all this week, either. With McDonald out, Xavier Gimble will likely see more playing time.
The defensive unit will also be missing some players. Defensive end Stephon Tuitt has been ruled out for a second consecutive week due to a back issue, meaning Tyson Alualu will once again start at right end. Tuitt, who will miss his fourth game of the season, has not practiced in the last two weeks.
Alualu has done a superb job in place of Tuitt. The 30-year-old defensive end recorded his first sack as a member of the Steelers against Cincinnati in Week 7 and has 20 tackles on the campaign.
Starting right outside linebacker T.J. Watt was limited in practice on Friday as his ankle flared up. Watt is expected to be good to go against the Lions. The 23-year-old rookie has been very good this season, recording 26 tackles and four sacks, including one last week.
Martavis Bryant is inactive
The Steelers announced that Martavis Bryant would not be available for the game against Detroit on Wednesday, but the reason the disgruntled receiver will not play has nothing to do with an injury; the decision mainly results from his attitude. Bryant missed a mandatory meeting on Monday and has been active on social media expressing his displeasure with his role with the team.
“Yeah, I am not playing Sunday, which is fine, I’m not trippin’. It is what it is,” Bryant said, according to The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly.
The Steelers have maintained that they will not trade the 25-year-old wide receiver despite his persistent demands, but the team could eventually change their minds, and have until Oct. 31(the NFL’s trade deadline) to do so.
For his part, Bryant told Jeremy Fowler of ESPN that he is done causing drama.
“If I’m not traded I’m going to work my butt off here, and whatever happens happens. You’re not going to hear me complaining no more. I’m just going to be quiet and let everything fall into place.”
Rookie Juju Schuster-Smith, who is in the league’s concussion protocol, is expected to start opposite of star Antonio Brown. However, he is not listed on the Steeers’ injury report and has been a full participant in practice the entire week. Schuster-Smith has at least two receptions in every game this year and 17 catches on the season for 231 yards along with three touchdowns.
Lions injury report
Detroit has six players listed on their final injury report, which includes three players who have already been ruled out. Like the Steelers, it is the Lions’ offensive line that is hurting the most. Detroit will be without starting left tackle Greg Robinson (ankle) and backup tackle Emmett Cleary. Robinson is the biggest lost as he took over the starting job because Taylor Decker is recovering from shoulder surgery and on the physically unable to perform list. Now, the Lions will turn to third-string Brian Mihalik, who will make his first professional start.
Backup wide receiver Kenny Golladay, who is dealing with a hamstring injury, will miss his fourth straight game. Golladay has seven catches and two touchdowns in three games. All three players did not practice this week.
Steelers official injury report
- OT Marcus Gilbert (Hamstring). Out.
- TE Vance McDonald (Knee). Out.
- DE Stephon Tuitt (Back). Out.