By: Mike Zappone

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Welcome to the Saturday blog! As you’ll find through the rest of the season, the Saturday blog will break down the injury situation for the Steelers and their opponent.

You’ve probably been hearing for years that a certain player is questionable, probable or doubtful and wonder what these words really mean. Why was a guy doubtful and then magically made 10 tackles in the game? And how about those probables that suddenly are scratched from the lineup?

The NFL’s system for reporting injuries is truly an inexact science. It’s also a day-to-day type of thing. Sometimes a player practices one day and feels good. Then the next day, he’s nowhere to be found. It’s often hard to evaluate the success of a practice until the player has a chance to rest an injury overnight. The initial report may be good, but a night of sleep can make all the difference in how the injured player’s body responds to the rigors of practice. So, the league devised a system for teams to report injuries as accurately as possible. On a normal game week, a team has to report injured players’ statuses as well as list the players who participated on a limited basis or not at all. When it’s all said and done, here’s what those words truly mean when you see them on the Steelers injury report.

  • Doubtful: 25% chance the player will be able to play
  • Questionable: 50-50 chance the player will play
  • Probable: 75% chance the player will be able to play

After those designations are given, we look to the practice report for further clues on the likelihood a doubtful or questionable player truly has a chance to beat the odds and play on Sunday. If a player is limited or doesn’t practice on Thursday, then the momentum isn’t heading in the right direction, but Friday is the most important day to watch the practice report (especially for veteran players). If a questionable or doubtful player doesn’t practice on Friday, you can start making a pretty good assumption that player will not make it on to the field at game time.

Now that we have the background info all laid out, let’s get to this week’s injuries for the Steelers and Raiders.

The best news for the Steelers was that Heath Miller was able to fully participate in practice yesterday for the first time this week. Barring any last minute complications with his abdominal injury, the Steelers All-Pro caliber tight end looks set to make it on the field tomorrow in Oakland. The news isn’t so good for a couple of former Pro Bowl players who will once again be on the sidelines. James Harrison’s knee kept him out of practice all week forcing the Steelers to rule him out of his third straight game. So it will once again be linebacker by committee as Jason Worilds and Chris Carter share time in Harrison’s outside linebacker spot opposite LaMarr Woodley.

For the second straight week, Ryan Mundy will jump into Troy Polamalu’s spot at Safety. Polamalu’s calf injury kept him from practicing all week. Now he’ll get two full weeks to get himself rested and back into the lineup with the Steelers bye week coming up after this game.

The only other player whose status is in doubt could severely hurt the Steelers depth at both offensive tackle spots. Second round draft pick Mike Adams was listed as questionable on the final report with a back injury, but it’s not looking hopeful that he’ll be on the good side of that 50-50 chance. After being limited Wednesday, Adams wasn’t able to work at all Thursday and Friday. Especially for a rookie in need of reps, the trend doesn’t appear to be in his favor. If Adams doesn’t dress, what happens should Max Starks or Marcus Gilbert get hurt tomorrow? The options drop off fast, so better just hope Adams finds a way to dress or the two starters don’t get hurt.

Now for the Raiders:

They’ve been torched in their completely rebuilt secondary this season and the picture isn’t getting any better with the news that starting cornerback Shawntae Spencer (Woodland Hills/Pitt) has been ruled out. Spencer has been battling a foot injury and hasn’t been on the field all week. That news is bad enough for the Raiders, but even worse may be the list of unknowns that will be chasing Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and the Steelers speedy wideouts all over the Coliseum field. Ever hear of Joselio Hanson, Pat Lee, Phillip Adams, and Coye Francies? You will Sunday.

The Raiders may have some good news on starting linebacker Rolondo McLain who made a late-week rally to give himself a chance to play this weekend after a concussion and ankle injury. The concussion seems to be the biggest issue, and it still seems very possible or likely it will keep McLain out of the lineup tomorrow. McLain practiced on a limited basis the last two days. That’s an improvement, but still seems to be iffy given the microscope teams are under when it comes to concussions.

With McClain possibly out, another injury could give the Steelers an open playbook tomorrow. Starting defensive tackle Richard Seymour practiced very little all week and has an uphill battle to play through his injured knee. If he can’t go, all of a sudden the middle of the Raiders defense softens up quite a bit giving the Steelers offense all kinds of options on the edge or in the power running game.

We should also mention the Raiders’ biggest weapon Sebastien Janikowski has been battling a groin injury all week. It seems he should play, but that can’t be good for a placekicker’s range when you’re dealing with leg injuries.

Bob Pompeani’s Blog: Steelers Will Handle Oakland Raiders (9/21/12)
More Steelers News

Watch & Listen LIVE