By Christina Rivers

Friday’s injury report from the Pittsburgh Steelers after a week of preparation for their Sunday night showdown at Heinz Field against the Baltimore Ravens was nearly identical to what head coach Mike Tomlin had said it would likely be in his Tuesday press conference with the exception of a single player. 

Safety Mike Mitchell, who joined the team during the offseason in a free-agent move, reportedly had a slip in practice on Thursday. The awkward movement caused a groin injury that limited Mitchell’s ability to practice for the remainder of the week. Despite the setback, the Steelers have listed Mitchell as ‘probable’ for the game. With Shamarko Thomas dealing with a persistent hamstring injury, the Steelers organization has indicated that veteran safety Will Allen would replace Mitchell should it become necessary.

Fellow safety Ross Ventrone suffered a hamstring injury of his own after replacing Thomas during the week eight game against the Indianapolis Colts. Ventrone and veteran cornerback Ike Taylor were the only two players who were ruled out altogether.

While no injury to the defensive backfield is good news for the Pittsburgh Steelers, especially entering a game against a heated rival in the Baltimore Ravens, defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau told members of the media that his unit, as a whole, has given him confidence that they will still be able to be successful against Joe Flacco and the Ravens. He admitted that although Indianapolis was able to score often in week eight, and the Ravens have the potential, the Steelers defense played well and look to carry that over in week nine. “We were active,” LeBeau said. “We have to do that every week and continue to improve…We made some impact plays and (there’s) no question about that.”

One thing that LeBeau wants to see more of from his defense in this weekend’s game is improvement, despite the defense having takeaways in the last couple of week and a safety against Andrew Luck. Expect the Steelers to push to disrupt Flacco. LeBeau threw pressure at Luck and it allowed for a few big plays, but Flacco isn’t Luck and the Steelers may have an advantage if they perform at a similar level as they did in week eight’s win.

Defensive tackle Steve McLendon (shoulder) has been upgraded and likely to get the start over rookie Daniel McCullers. McCullers played well against Indianapolis, helping the Steelers defense limit Ahmad Brashaw and the run, forcing Luck to pass. With three healthy defensive tackles back on the roster, Cam Thomas may move back to the defensive end position. 

Offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert passed his concussion protocol and participated fully all week in practice. Tomlin indicated early in the week that Gilbert would get the start if he was ready,despite six quarters of high performance from Mike Adams, who stepped in when Gilbert went down. Gilbert is excited for the opportunity.

“It’s personal,” Gilbert said of his chance to get back in and make up for what he felt was a bad game in week two against Baltimore. “And not only that, it’s a rivalry. In week two they got through (our offensive line). I’ve had this date circled on my calendar.”

In their first meeting this season, Ravens outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil was able to get past Gilbert as the pocket collapsed an sack quarterback Ben Roethlisberger twice. Gilbert welcomes the chance to prove he can do a better job this week. “This is an exciting time for us. Everything’s falling in place for us,” Gilbert said. “The offense is coming together. The defense is playing well. We just have to keep carrying this on and find a way to get a victory this weekend.” 

The remaining six players on the injury report, including Thomas, were all able to participate fully in Friday’s practice. Defensive end Brett Keisel, tight end Heath Miller and safety Troy Polamalu all had days off that were not related to injuries. Linebacker Ryan Shazier (knee) wasn’t limited in any form and tight end Matt Spaeth who had a sore hamstring came back strong on Thursday and Friday. 

The Ravens will be without wide receiver Michael Companaro (thigh) and cornerback Jimmy Smith (foot) on Sunday. Offensive guard/tackle Marshal Yanda is questionable with a knee injury, as is defensive lineman Chris Canty (wrist) and tight end Owen Daniels (knee). All three participated in Friday practices. Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (shin), running back Justin Forsett (ankle), outside linebacker Terrell Suggs (neck) and cornerback/return-specialist Lardarius Webb are listed as probable. Webb saw time off this week, but it was not related to injury.

Steelers Week Nine Injury Report Recap

Probable

Marcus Gilbert (T – concussion)
Brett Keisel (DE – not injury related)
Steve McLendon (DT – shoulder)
Heath Miller (TE – not injury related)
Mike Mitchell (S – groin)
Troy Polamalu (S – not injury related)
Ryan Shazier (LB – knee)
Matt Spaeth (TE – hamstring)
Shamarko Thomas (S – hamstring)

Out

Ike Taylor (CB – forearm)
Ross Ventrone (S – hamstring)

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.