By Christina Rivers
The Pittsburgh Steelers will enter Paul Brown Stadium to face the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday with several players suffering from minor injuries, bumps and bruises – battle scars. Offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert is the only player the Steelers have ruled out for the game. The offensive tackle missed last Sunday’s game against the Saints due to a bad ankle, but missed three days of practice this week. Gilbert understands, like the rest of the team, what is at stake in Week 14. “We know where we are right now and we know where we want to be and where we have to be,” Gilbert said, reiterating that the team needs the win this week. “If any team can do it, we can do it. We’re that type of team.” Mike Adams is likely to start in Gilbert’s place.
Linebacker James Harrison sustained a knee injury that kept him out of practice this week, limiting the Steelers’ defense even more after being forced to place defensive end Brett Keisel on the injured-reserved list with a triceps tear. With Harrison doubtful to be available against Cincinnati, the Steelers are looking for big games from Arthur Moats and Jason Worilds at outside linebacker. Rookie linebacker Ryan Shazier (ankle) was a full participant in practice and is expected to see playing time. Jarvis Jones (wrist) would have to be activated to the 53-main roster from the IR-designated-to-return list, but the announcement hadn’t been made by the team immediately following practice on Friday. Sean Spence, Lawrence Timmons and Vince Williams will need big games in the middle of the defense. If Jones were to be activated, the team would need to release one player to create a spot on the active roster.
Defensive tackle Steve McLendon was able to participate in practice this week, but is still questionable as to whether he’ll be able to dress against the Bengals. Without Keisel, Pittsburgh will likely start Daniel McCullers at the defensive tackle position, allowing Cam Thomas to share time in Keisel’s place with recently-signed Clifton Geathers, as Cameron Heyward controls the other end of the defensive line. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau indicated in his coordinator’s conference that every able-bodied player would be counted on, so Stephon Tuitt will likely also see time on the field.
Cornerbacks Ike Taylor (forearm), Cortez Allen (thumb) and Brice McCain (hamstring) were all able to return this week to participate in drills. After a post-game admission from Taylor that he felt a bit rusty and a decline in play by Allen before his injury, the Steelers are likely to ask more from Antwon Blake and William Gay.
There continues to be no evidence that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has any serious side-effects from the blow his hand took on a Saints defender, and although he missed some practice time this week, he will be behind center calling the plays and leading the offense.
The Bengals have some battle scars of their own. Five days after a career high start, Cincinnati rookie wide receiver James Wright was unable to practice due to knee injury and is unlikely to play on Sunday. Pro Bowl middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict (knee) had surgery on October 29, but has been unable to get back onto the field. Right end Margus Hunt (ankle) figures to be the third of these players to be inactive on Sunday’s list.
The Bengals signed right tackle Eric Winston on Tuesday, but hasn’t seen a single snap since the preseason. Former Steelers and Colts special teams linebacker Chris Carter joins the Bengals this week. Defensive tackle Domata Peko (elbow) is likely to get his 80th straight start for the Bengals.
Other players that saw time away from practice this week for Cincinnati include: DE Robert Geathers hip), WR A.J. Green (thigh), HB Ryan Hewitt (illness), CB Adam Jones (concussion), OT Marshall Newhouse (hip), G/C Mike Pollak (knee). Offensive tackle Andrew Witworth saw time off that was not related to injury.
Steelers Injury Recap
Marcus Gilbert (T, ankle)
James Harrison (LB, knee)
Steve McLendon (DT, shoulder)
Cortez Allen (CB, thumb)
Brice McCain CB, hamstring)
Heath Miller (TE, not injury related)
Troy Polamalu (S, illness)
Ben Roethlisberger (QB, not injury related)
Ryan Shazier (LB, ankle)
Ike Taylor (CB, forearm)
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