By Daniel Benjamin
The Pittsburgh Steelers will be without three key members when they host the Green Bay Packers in prime time on Sunday.
Pittsburgh (8-2) officially ruled out rookie wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, tight end Vance McDonald and cornerback Joe Haden. At the beginning of the week, it was a given that Haden (fractured fibula) would not be available. The Steelers also knew there was a chance that the other two players would be unable to go as well as safety Mike Mitchell.
Coach Mike Tomlin revealed that Smith-Schuster had a “small” hamstring injury on Tuesday and that he would be held out of some practice sessions. But the second-round selection did not practice at all during the week. Smith-Schuster has 33 receptions for 568 yards, which leads all rookies, and five touchdowns.
With the former USC Trojan out, ex-starter Martavis Bryant and Eli Rogers are expected to see the field more. Big 6-foot-4 Justin Harper could also see some playing time. Harper has three catches for 18 yards.
McDonald will miss his second game in the last three weeks with an ankle injury. Reserve tight end Xavier Gimble should see increased snaps, mainly serving as a blocker. Gimble has hauled in one pass for 12 yards.
Mitchell is listed as questionable for the contest. Mitchell, who missed last week’s game, was a full practice participant on Wednesday and then was limited on Thursday as well as Friday. If Mitchell is unable to go, it will be the third game that he has missed this season.
Coty Sensabaugh is once again slated to start opposite for Artie Burns, for Haden, while Robert Golden would likely fill-in for Mitchell.
James Harrison not limited at practice
Harrison has been a full practice participant this week, marking the first time that has occurred since Week 8. Harrison has missed the last two games with a back injury, though he did practice on a limited basis last week. While the 39-year-old is not on the team’s injury report, it doesn’t mean that he will play against the Packers.
Harrison has been inactive the past four weeks. The last time the outside linebacker played was Week 6 against Kansas City, when he recorded three tackles and one sack. He has appeared in just four contests overall.
However, this could be the same situation as last season. After having his snap count monitored for the first half of the season, Harrison led the team with five sacks over the last eight games. If Mitchell can’t go, it will be the third game that he has missed this season.
Packers injury report
Green Bay has a full list of players on their injury report as well. Excluding running back Aaron Jones (out), the Packers have eight players with an injury designation. Outside linebacker Clay Matthews (groin) and running back Ty Montgomery (ribs) are the Pack’s biggest injury concerns, as both are key members of their respective units. Matthews left last week’s loss to Baltimore in the first half and did not practice at all. He is officially listed as questionable and no decision is expected until game-time.
Montgomery missed last week’s game and did not practice at all this week; he is listed as doubtful for the game. An official decision is expected to be made on Saturday. With Montgomery unlikely to play for a second straight week, rookie Jamaal Williams will likely get the bulk of the carries once again. Williams has combined to tote 124 yards on 34 carries the past two games. Fellow rookie Davante Adams would likely back up Williams if he is able to overcome an ankle injury. Adams is listed as questionable.
Starting defensive tackle Kenny Clark also didn’t practice this week and is doubtful to be available.
Steelers full injury report
- WR JuJu Smith-Schuster. Hamstring. Out.
- TE Vance McDonald. Ankle. Out.
- S Mike Mitchell. Ankle. Questionable.
- CB Joe Haden. Fibula. Out