PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) – The Steelers’ defense could get a big boost Sunday against the Bengals.

The Steelers expect star edge rusher T.J. Watt (hip and knee), starting safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (reserve/COVID-19 list) and starting cornerback Joe Haden (foot) to get back this week, but practice will determine availability, Coach Mike Tomlin said at his Tuesday press conference.

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Center J.C. Hassenauer (pec) and tight end Eric Ebron (knee) are questionable, Tomlin said.

Sunday’s 41-37 loss against the Chargers will loom large in the Steelers’ defensive record books, yet they hope it will be a growing experience for the youngsters and backups forced into action during Pittsburgh’s first loss since Oct. 3.

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Ben Roethlisberger’s return from a bout with COVID-19 couldn’t make up for the Steelers’ absences on defense. Without Watt, Fitzpatrick and Haden, the Steelers were forced to make changes to a starting group that had been fairly healthy until recently.

The upheaval clearly affected the Steelers while they struggled to get off the field for the first three quarters in Inglewood. Alex Highsmith filled in for Watt as an edge-rushing linebacker, and he got 1 1/2 of the Steelers’ two sacks — but it wasn’t enough.

The Steelers will head to Cincinnati to face off against the Bengals on Nov. 28.

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