By Christina Rivers

News that the Pittsburgh Steelers will be without three defensive players in Ike Taylor, Jarvis Jones and Ryan Shazier has already circulated throughout the NFL for week four, but offensive lineman Ramon Foster was not able to practice on Friday due to an ankle injury that continues to plague him. The return of Dri Archer is a real possibility should the Steelers need another running back. In all, the Steelers listed nine players on their injury report, but most were not related to injuries.

Wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey was hampered by an illness and did not attend the first practice of the week, but was able to return to full practices. His return will give quarterback Ben Roethlisberger an additional target in the passing game behind Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton and Justin Brown.

When asked about Archer’s return, offensive coordinator Todd Haley said, “We will see. He is working through it this week. He is making progress. If he has a helmet then we will definitely find something for him to do.”

Roethlisberger did not participate in the first practice of the week, joined by tight end Heath Miller, safety Troy Polamalu and defensive end Brett Keisel. On Tuesday, recently re-signed James Harrison worked his way into the practice rotation and will dress for the week four game at Heinz Field against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Overall, the Steelers will be healthy on Sunday against the Buccaneers who are 0-3 on the season.

In place of the injured Foster, the Steelers have three able-bodied offensive linemen in Cody Wallace, Chris Hubbard and Wesley Johnson.

When asked about how the Steelers will adjust on defense without Taylor and Shazier, defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said, “Well it is a challenge. It’s basically one-fourth of your starting lineup. We’re fortunate that we have some good people behind them and we’ll have to adjust. It won’t be the only game during the season that this situation will arise. I’m sure of that. We try to prepare for this starting at coaching sessions and up into training camp. We try to practice for plan B and plan C. Many games I’ve been a part of, you have to go to plan B, C and D. So at least we’ve been through the scenario. I thought our guys did a good job of staying focused. We gave up some plays later in the game, but we were able to get off the field and keep the score relatively low.”

Tampa Bay, however, may be missing some key players. At defensive end, Larry English has a sore hamstring that kept him out of practice on Thursday but teammate William Gholston (shoulder) was able to return to full participation this week. Linebacker Mason Foster (shoulder) is likely a wash this week. These three players could have a big effect on the pash-rush that Tampa Bay is able to throw at Pittsburgh. Quarterback Josh McCown may not need surgery on an injured right thumb, but the Buccaneers have been preparing all week for Mike Glennon to take his spot on the roster against Pittsburgh.

Other question marks for Sunday are tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (ankle) and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (hand). Wide receiver Vincent Jackson and running back Doug Martin were able to get back into full swing on Thursday and look to play on Sunday. Bobby Rainey will likely rotate with Martin in the offensive backfield.

Steelers Recap

Out

Ryan Shazier (LB, knee)
Ike Taylor (CB, forearm)

Questionable

Ramon Foster (G, ankle)

Probable

Dri Archer (RB/WR, ankle)
Darrius-Heyward Bey (WR, illness)
Brett Keisel (DE, NIR*)
Heath Miller (TE, NIR)
Troy Polamalu (S, NIR)
Ben Roethlisberger (QB, NIR)

(* NIR – Not Injury Related)

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.