By Christina Rivers
The Pittsburgh Steelers will travel to New England with a clear picture of their offensive line. With several injuries along it, the Steelers will need their very best from available players. And they will be playing against Tom Brady and the Patriots. David DeCastro, who had improved to the point that the Steelers were seeing better production along the offensive line, will not play on Sunday. His loss will force the “next man up” mentality the Steelers continue to hold onto. New England (6-2) will try to become yet another spoiler in the Steelers’ 2-5 season.
The matchup between Pittsburgh and New England is always a brutal battle. This week’s meeting between the two teams will be the first in Foxborough since the 2008 regular season. The Steelers will be seeking their third win in the last four regular-season matches with the Patriots, as well as consecutive wins over New England. Of the 22 regular-season games between these two powerhouses, Sunday’s game will be only the seventh that has taken place in Foxborough.
On Friday, DeCastro was unable to practice for the third straight day this week, forcing him to be listed as ‘out’ for the Patriots game. Also out for the game will be wide receiver Markus Wheaton and Curtis Brown.
With DeCastro down, Guy Whimper (knee), who participated fully in practice, is expected to be the next man on Sunday. “They haven’t told me that yet,” Whimper said. “I’m a while lot more confident playing guard this week. If they need me there, I’ll be ready.”
Offensive guard Ramon Foster, who suffered a concussion in the game against the Oakland Raiders last weekend, said that he is optimistic about starting against the Patriots. “[I am a] little better today,” said Foster on Friday. “I practiced all of today. (Saturday) I’ll take one more (test) and see what the docs say. I think I’ll be pretty sharp.”
Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders is looking to record his third reception of 40-plus yards this season, but understands what is on the line for the Steelers. “We’ve got to put up points on these guys because we know that with (Tom Brady) at quarterback they can put up points,” said Sanders. “Once we get in the red zone, we’ve got to execute and we’ve got to score touchdowns.”
Scoring on the ground will be difficult if Foster and Whimper can’t help support the offensive line. Le’Veon Bell, Felix Jones and Jonathan Dwyer have seen more holes over the last few weeks, but the offense has continued to struggle to fire on all cylinders. While quarterback Ben Roethlisberger did miss time in practice this week, it was not related to an injury. Tight end Heath Miller may play a bigger role on Sunday as he is two touchdowns away from tying Buddy Dial (42) for the fourth most receiving touchdowns in team history. Miller has been an effective receiver and outlet when the Steelers have struggled due to deep coverage and the inability to run.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Steelers have seen a new energy in safety Troy Polamalu. Against Oakland, Polamalu was a difference-maker in keeping the Raiders from being able to keep their offense on the field, but had to watch helplessly as the Steelers second-half comeback surge stalled. Polamalu logged his first interception of 2013 against the Raiders, and needs one more to tie Jack Ham and Darren Perry (32) for the seventh-most in team history.
Nose tackle Steve McLendon had an illness that kept him from some practice time this week, but outside of inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons’ hand, the defense looks solid. Saying that, Timmons hasn’t been hampered by the broken hand and looks to be as disruptive against New England as he has been this season.
- G Ramon Foster (concussion)
- NT Steve McLendon (illness)
- TE Heath Miller (not injury related)
- QB Ben Roethlisberger (not injury related)
- ILB Lawrence Timmons (hand)
- G Guy Whimper (knee)
- WR Markus Wheaton (finger)
- CB Curtis Brown (not injury related)
- G David DeCastro (ankle)
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