By Daniel Benjamin
The Pittsburgh Steelers have four players with an injury designation heading into their Thursday night clash with the Tennessee Titans. This game has the potential to have significant implications in the AFC playoff race. The Steelers (7-2) currently sit atop of the conference standings while the Titans (6-3) are in the mix for a No. 2 or 3 seed.
Sensabaugh expected to start in Haden’s absence
Pittsburgh, which had just one player listed on its injury report last week, knew that they would be without starting cornerback Joe Haden for the next few weeks following their game against Indianapolis on Sunday. Haden left the Colts game late in the first quarter with a leg injury that has since been diagnosed as a fractured fibula. With Haden out, reserve defensive back Coty Sensabaugh is expected to start opposite cornerback Artie Burns.
Sensabaugh, who replaced Haden in the game, had three tackles against the Colts to increase his total to six on the season. He was also involved in the Colts’ second 60-yard touchdown as Carlos Rogers got behind the defense on a coverage snafu.
“We’ll do a great job of rallying around Coty and helping him prepare and look forward to him doing the job,” said head coach Mike Tomlin. “The standard is the standard. We’ll expect Coty to play well. We’ll help him in preparation and he will. Hopefully Joe’s injury will be less of an issue the more that Coty plays. Hopefully he’ll have an opportunity to come back and be a positive contributor to our efforts in the ways that he has been.”
Mike Mitchell questionable
Haden may not be the only defensive back the Steelers have to replace in the starting lineup. Free safety Mike Mitchell is currently questionable for the game with an ankle injury. Mitchell injured his ankle against the Colts and is expected to be a game-time decision. He was limited in practice the past two days.
It will be interesting to see who the Steelers choose to go with if Mitchell isn’t capable of playing. They have two choices: either J.J. Wilcox, who started when Mitchell missed the Baltimore game (Oct. 1), or Robert Golden, who came in after Mitchell left Sunday’s game. Both players are veterans with starting experience.
Tight end Vance McDonald and linebacker James Harrison are also listed as questionable. McDonald tweaked his ankle against Indianapolis and did not practice on Tuesday or Wednesday. He had two receptions for 16 yards and a touchdown this past weekend. Harrison has appeared in just four games this season.
Martavis Bryant slated to play after dealing with illness
Bryant was back at practice on Wednesday after missing Tuesday with an illness. He has now missed four practices in the past 50 days with this illness. Bryant is not listed on the team’s injury report.
Following his one game demotion, Bryant was on the field for 37 of the team’s 66 offensive snaps against Indy. He finished the game with three receptions on five targets for 47 yards and a two-point conversion. For the season, Bryant has 21 catches for 276 yards and one touchdown to go along with four carries for 13 yards.
Titans full injury report
The Titans are definitely the healthier team entering Thursday’s game. Tennessee has no players with an injury designation. This is not really a huge surprise, as the three players whose health may have been in question did not miss any practice time this week: tight end Delanie Walker, quarterback Marcus Mariota and offensive guard Quinton Spain.
Walker (forearm) and Mariota (ankle) were dinged up in the Titans’ win over the Bengals on Sunday. Both players were limited in practice on Monday, though they were full participants on Tuesday and Wednesday. In the meantime, Spain has missed the last two games with a toe injury.
With all three player set to go, it means the Titans will have all 11 of their offensive starters together for the first time since Week 1.
Steelers full injury report
- CB Joe Haden, Fibula. Out.
- FS Mike Mitchell, Ankle. Questionable.
- .TE Vance McDonald, Ankle. Questionable.
- LB James Harrison, Back.Questionable.