Although there is much to be excited about in the wake of Pittsburgh’s most recent victory, they did not emerge from Sunday’s game against Cleveland completely injury-free. In fact, the Steelers saw nose tackle Steve McLendon exit in the first half with an ankle injury and backup cornerback Curtis Brown leave near the end of the third quarter with a banged-up knee.
With a monumental game against Baltimore coming up in only four days, the Steelers will be forced to shuffle more players up, down, and around their roster if neither McLendon nor Brown is able to suit up on Thanksgiving.
The absence of McLendon will force Pittsburgh to continue to move some of their players around along their defensive front, especially if veteran Brett Keisel is unable to play due to his plantar fascitis for a second consecutive week.
The Steelers will need strong efforts from Ziggy Hood and Al Woods once again, and both veterans filled in well after McLendon was sidelined against Cleveland. Woods racked up four tackles, 2.0 sacks, and two quarterback hurries on Sunday, while Hood stepped in and notched two tackles in Keisel’s place at defensive end as well.
While Brown isn’t much of a factor in Pittsburgh’s secondary, he has emerged as of their better special teams players on their coverage units in recent weeks. Hopefully Shamarko Thomas (ankle) and Stevenson Sylvester (hamstring) are able to return for this Thursday’s game to pick up the slack with Brown sidelined. Otherwise it will be up to guys like Robert Golden, Terence Garvin, and Antwon Blake to keep up with their steady play until the aforementioned special teamers are healthy enough to contribute.
With a short week looming, Pittsburgh can ill afford to be without their starting nose tackle and one of their most important special teams contributors for what figures to be their most important game of the 2013 regular season. While the statuses of both players are not known yet according to head coach Mike Tomlin, the Steelers will need all hands on deck when they head to Baltimore for their pivotal matchup on Thanksgiving night.
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