Woodley was in the midst of career-high numbers in sacks before he went out in October. Image courtesy espn.com

Can The Steelers Pull Out An Important Win Without Key Players?

Hoping that ankle is strong enough to last through the post season. Image courtesy yahoosports.com

Ok, I’m not going to do what everyone thinks I’m going to do and just flip out on the commissioner and the suspension of James Harrison.  I’m just going to head up to NFL headquarters in New York and give good ole’ Goodell a piece of my mind.  All I want to know is who’s coming with me?  (Thank you if you got the Half Baked reference here)  So I can’t bring myself to spend any more time arguing about James Harrison’s hit on Colt McCoy, the hypocrisy of the NFL, and the ridiculousness of a certain four-letter network spending way too much time comparing Harrison to Ndamukong Suh, as if their two situations were even remotely similar.  Steeler Nation knows, even if we all can’t agree within ourselves, that although Harrison does hit hard and does occasionally make contact with the helmet of opposing players, that he plays within the whistles and isn’t even in the same neighborhood of dirty playerville as Suh. So there’s no need to continue to harp on it any longer, it is what it is.  Harrison has initiated his appeal and his chances of getting the suspension overturned have been described as like throwing a rock at a tank.  So with the Steelers traveling west for a Monday night showdown in San Francisco, with potentially a lead in the division on the line, can they pull through with some key players out of the game?

The players in question for this game might also read a lot like the Steelers Pro Bowl selections for this year or any previous year.  The Steelers have been hit with the injury bug just like any other team this year but this game in particular has a who’s who list on the injury report and it couldn’t have come at a worse time.  By the time the Steelers take the field on Monday night in San Francisco, they might be playing for the edge up on the Ratbirds in the division.  Of course, that would take my favorite quarterback, Philip Rivers, not stinking up the joint like he has most of the season and playing like the “elite” quarterback that ESPN so very much wants him to be.  Needless to say there is a lot on the line for this game.

Some of the key players in question for Monday’s game are:

James Harrison (suspension) – Let’s just say he’s not playing, no reason to fool ourselves thinking there’s a chance he will win his appeal.  With Harrison back in Pittsburgh while the team boards the plane, Steeler Nation will anxiously await confirmation that LaMarr Woodley will take the field again at full strength and resume the aggressive style he was playing at when he went down in October.  Stepping in regardless if Woodley plays or not will be Jason Worilds either on the outside or inside depending on the availability of Woodley.  Worilds has had a solid season so far stepping in for either Woodley or Harrison for either of their injuries so far.

Troy Polamalu (hamstring)- Did anyone else catch Ryan Clark pulling Troy’s arm back in the socket on the sidelines of Thursday’s game?  Yeah that was kind of weird right?  Anyhow, Polamalu is listed on the injury report with a hamstring injury and, if by any chances does not suit up against the 49ers will most likely be replaced by Ryan Mundy.  Mundy (pronounced Mun-dee Mr. Collingsworth) had a stellar game filling in for Polamalu against Kansas City racking up 8 solo tackles and an interception.

Maurkice Pouncey (high ankle sprain) – Pouncey himself has stated that he thinks he will be playing Monday night and has characterized this ankle sprain as far less severe as the one that kept him out of the Super Bowl. This is good news because Steeler Nation doesn’t want to see just how many offensive holding calls Chris Kemoeatu could rack up if played the whole game.

Ben Roethlisberger (high ankle sprain) – Ben’s toughness is not in question when he came back in the second half last week against Cleveland but we all saw him limping around the field and he definitely was not as mobile as he usually is.  Both Ben’s and Pouncey’s ankle sprains have been downgraded since initially listed at grade 3 right after the Browns game but Ben has been seen with a walking boot and has not yet practiced this week.  If Ben can’t play Charlie Batch is listed at the number 2 spot and Dennis Dixon will definitely be activated for this game.  I’m not willing to judge Batch off of just the 2 series he has played so far this season against Cleveland, because I think he’s a solid backup.  While not the youngest man on the roster, Batch stepped up in place of Ben last season and won a rout of a game in Tampa.

The Steelers can punch their ticket to the post-season this Monday with a win or a loss by a combination of losses by the Jets, Raiders, Titans or Broncos.  More importantly, if the Ratbirds falter against the Chargers, the AFC North will be up for grabs and with it comes a bye in the first round of the playoffs (considering the fact that the Steelers hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Patriots).  The 49ers are also playing for their bye chances as well, as they are in a tie with the Saints for the number 2 spot in the NFC.   We’d all like to think that anything is possible thanks to the Super Bowl XL run where the Steelers won their final 3 regular season games and won 3 playoff games on the road but the reality is the Steelers are a much better home team than road team so locking up home field advantage and a bye is vital to the Steelers chances at success in the playoffs. 

Tomlin has stated before that he has no “backups” only “starters and starters in waiting”.  I had very much hoped that after the bye week, the Steelers would be totally healthy and unstoppable.  Well, the healthy part can’t be helped, such is the nature of the NFL.  But I still believe they can’t be stopped.  The only team that could beat them is themselves so whether it’s the next man up taking the field on Monday night or one of the Pro Bowlers playing slightly hurt, the Steelers have always enjoyed success on Monday Night Football so this Monday should be no different.  Go Steelers! 

Follow Me on Twitter @Kimmy_KimKimM 

 

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