By Daniel Benjamin
The Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line has played a major role in their offensive woes in the early going. There is some good news, however, as right tackle Marcus Gilbert is on track to play for the first time since leaving Week 2’s game against the Minnesota Vikings in the fourth quarter.READ MORE: 40th Street Bridge Lane Restrictions Go Into Place This Week
Gilbert, who told Missi Mathews of Steelers.com that he will play against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, missed the last three weeks with a hamstring injury. The 6-foot-6, 330-pounder participated in each of the team’s practices this week for the first time since before the Vikings game. He did not practice at all the week following the game against the Vikes, and was only a full participant on Wednesday the last two weeks.
The Steelers have gone 1-2 without Gilbert in the lineup. They have averaged 17.3 points a game and 343.6 yards a game in those contests. Pittsburgh’s offensive line has given up six sacks, 18 quarterback hits and 10 negative running plays over the last three games. The offensive line’s biggest problem has been opening holes for their running backs.
The Steelers’ offensive line ranks 21st in the league in run blocking as 11% of the team’s runs plays are getting stuffed at the line. The Steelers are averaging just 3.5 yards per carry and have a long run of 23 yards by rookie James Conner. Star running back Le’Veon Bell is averaging only 74.3 yards a game and 3.6 yards per carry. Overall, the offensive line has been graded out as the ninth-best in the league, according to Pro Football Focus, due to possessing the sixth-best pass blocking unit.
Gilbert’s return allows versatile offensive lineman Chris Hubbard to return to a reserve role. Hubbard can basically play every position on the line and also will occasionally serve as a blocking tight end.
Gilbert will likely be matched up quite a bit with Chiefs’ pass rushing specialist Justin Houston. Houston, who is dealing with a calf injury, has registered a sack in four of the team’s five games. He was credited with 1.5 sacks last week against the Houston Texans to give him a team-leading 5.5 for the season. Overall, Houston has 22 tackles to go along with two run stuffs.
Ramon Foster is the lone Steeler on the injury report
Could this be the week the Steelers have “all hands on deck?” It appears highly unlikely. While left guard Ramon Foster is the lone player listed on the Steelers’ final injury report, he has not practiced all week due to a back injury. And typically the Steelers sit out players that don’t practice all week.READ MORE: Dozens Of Women Gather On North Shore For 'Black Maternal Health Week' Photoshoot
Officially, Foster is listed as questionable, so the ultimate decision will likely be made prior to game-time. Foster had previously been on the injury report this season with a hand injury.
If Foster can’t go, backup B.J Finney is expected to fill in. Finney has made four of his 17 career appearances this season.
Kansas City Chiefs injury report
The Chiefs appear to be in pretty good shape heading into the game against the Steelers with tight end Travis Kelce, wide receiver Tyreek Hill and Houston expected to play. All three players were limited or absent from practice this week due to injuries.
Kelce (concussion) leads the Chiefs with 29 receptions on a team-high 37 targets for 353 yards and two touchdowns. Kelce has 15 catches over the last two weeks. Hill is dealing with a hamstring issue that limited him in practice Thursday and Friday. Hill is the team’s big play receiver, leading the team with 356 receiving catches on 25 receptions.
Kansas City has ruled out four players for the game. Starting offensive linemen Laurent Duvernay-Tardff (knee) and Mitch Morse (foot) will once again be sidelined. Defensive back Steven Terrell (concussion) and wide receiver Chris Conley (Achilles) each suffered injuries in Week 5. Conley is out for the season.
Pittsburgh Steelers full injury reportMORE NEWS: Local Providers Committed To Distributing Johnson And Johnson Vaccine Despite Reports Of Shortages
- G Ramon Foster (back). Questionable.