By Christina Rivers

On Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2) will host the Arizona Cardinals (4-1) in a game that is being compared to Super Bowl XLIII. Sunday’s game will be the 59th time these two teams have met in the regular season. After a last minute scratch of linebacker Ryan Shazier and the placing of Daniel McCullers and Martavis Bryant on the inactive list, the Steelers had several familiar names facing limited time in practice this week. Safety Will Allen, who injured an ankle against the San Diego Chargers, was unable to participate at all. This will be the third consecutive week the Steelers will be without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who continues to work back from a knee injury.

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The Steelers activated Bryant on Tuesday, making room on the roster by releasing safety Ross Ventrone, who had been dealing with a hamstring issue through the first five weeks of the season. Bryant spent time familiarizing himself with the play of quarterback Michael Vick and working on rebuilding chemistry with his teammates after a four-game suspension.

In a week where the Steelers will be facing a high-performance offense in the Cardinals, the defensive backfield looks thin. Cornerback Cortez Allen continues to disappoint in practice due to a nagging knee injury. Without (Will) Allen, the team will count on Shamarko Thomas and Robert Golden to step up this week. When asked about Golden, Keith Butler told the media, “If I trusted anybody to be ready on this defense, it would be Robert. He studies the game. He works at his craft…He doesn’t get out of position a lot. I’m very comfortable with him.” At corner, Antwon Blake has stepped into (Cortez) Allen’s spot with Ross Cockrell. Brandon Boykin has yet to spend much time with the defense, playing special teams snaps.

With news that Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey will require a second surgery on his ankle, Cody Wallace looks to remain at the position. Last week, Wallace struggled at times against the Chargers defensive rush. “When Pouncy went down, and you all asked how were we going to function, (Wallace) had been with us two years ago and played a big part in us being one of the better offenses the second half of 2013,” said offensive coordinator Todd Haley. “You just have to look for the last guy hitting after the whistle, and it’s usually him. He is smart. He has done a great job, whether it’s been (Roethlisberger) in there or Mike (Vick), as he handles a lot of issues. That’s what you are looking for.”

Outside linebacker Jarvis Jones has been dealing with a hip issue. Butler admitted he felt Jones handled himself well against the Chargers, adding that Jones had to learn from veterans, like James Harrison. “I think he’s starting to feel comfortable in the system,” said Butler. “When you feel comfortable enough to the point it’s second nature to you, it becomes easier. The game slows down a bit.”

Fellow linebacker Ryan Shazier has still not shown he is 100 percent after suffering a shoulder injury. After the coaching staff talked about him being active in practice ahead of the Monday night game in San Diego, Shazier was not active. It caught many off guard, bringing up questions about his level of durability. Shazier had been having a good season up until the point he was injured. On Tuesday, Tomlin told the media the team expected Shazier to be available, but mentioned how well Sean Spence and Vince Williams have played in his absence. “Those guys are not rookies,” said Tomlin. “Those guys are as experienced backup players that you will come across.”

Injury Recap

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Out

  • Will Allen (S, ankle)
  • Ben Roethlisberger (QB, knee)
  • Ryan Shazier (LB, shoulder)

Questionable

 

  • Cortez Allen (CB, knee)
  • Jarvis Jones (LB, hip)

 

Probable

  • Doug Legursky (C/G, back)
  • James Harrison (LB, illness)

 

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Christina Rivers has covered the Pittsburgh Steelers and National Football League professionally as a journalist 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 as well as a published author. Her work can be found on
Examiner.com.