What are the most notable injuries heading into Sunday’s highly-anticipated matchup between the Patriots and the Steelers?
We’re just three days away from one of the most eagerly-awaited games of the entire NFL season.
Last year, the New England Patriots met the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field in Week 15, fresh off an embarrassing road loss to the Miami Dolphins. They took care of business (with an assist from a controversial referee decision), clinched the AFC East, and later advanced all the way to the Super Bowl.
This year, the Patriots again meet the Steelers at Heinz Field in Week 15, again coming off an embarrassing road loss to the Miami Dolphins, and again with a chance to win the AFC East and perhaps make another run at a sixth Super Bowl title.
To do that, they’ll need to beat the only NFL team with six Lombardi Trophies of their own. The Steelers are a dangerous team with a high-octane offense – even sans Le’Veon Bell – and beating them in Pittsburgh will not be easy. It will take a complete performance from the Patriots in all three phases of the game, and for all 60 minutes, to emerge victorious.
Thankfully, according to the injury reports released Thursday by both teams, New England is at least coming into Sunday’s game with a significant advantage in terms of injuries.
The Patriots are the healthiest they’ve been all season, with just two players listed on the injury report: Stephon Gilmore (ankle) and Dwayne Allen (knee). Both men were full participants in practice though, and made it from start to finish without any setbacks or limitations.
On the other hand, the Steelers have six players appearing on their injury report.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, safety Sean Davis, center Maurkice Pouncey, and linebacker Anthony Chickillo were at least all listed as full participants, which helps their chances of suiting up on Sunday.
Of that group, the only significant injury that bears watching is Roethlisberger (ribs), though as of now it would come as a huge surprise if he wasn’t out there this weekend. Physical toughness and the ability to play through pain have always been trademarks of Big Ben’s career. Expect No. 7 to be on the field Sunday evening for the black-and-gold.
Two other names on the Steelers’ injury report are listed in the “Did Not Participate” section, though only one of them is truly significant.
Offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert is a seasoned veteran, but the team hasn’t really missed a beat in his lengthy absence, so rushing his return just to face the Patriots doesn’t make sense if he’s not ready.
James Conner is a different story. The second-year pro stepped up in Bell’s absence and so far has been a revelation, combining for 1,376 all-purpose yards and 13 touchdowns as a running back and receiver.
But unfortunately for Conner and the Steelers, he hasn’t played since injuring an ankle two weeks ago in their game against the Chargers.
If Conner can’t go, the Steelers will turn to ex-Patriot Stevan Ridley and rookie Jaylen Samuels, their third and fourth-string options at running back when the 2018 season began. No disrespect to either player, but it’s a steep drop-off to those two from Bell and Conner.
In other words, Steeler Nation should be keeping their fingers crossed that James Conner makes it off the injury report in time for Sunday’s showdown.