Nothing is set in stone, but entering Sunday's nationally televised contest against the Broncos, one thing is certain: The pre-season has taken a toll, and the Steelers are banged up.
Perhaps the biggest news was the fact first round pick David DeCastro, who was not expected to play in the game was officially placed on IR, and wont be eligible to return for eight weeks under the new NFL rule. Ramon Foster will take his place.
The biggest question entering the game against the Broncos is the health of linebacker James Harrison. The All-Pro linebacker, who spoke to media for the first time on Friday, says he still has some pain but that would like to play, but that decision is in Tomlin's hands. As of now Chris Carter looks to have the nod. The linebackers corps have taken a real beating heading into the opener as Stevenson Sylvester is also out with a knee injury and Sean Spence, who was expected to be a major contributor this year, went down in the pre-season and is on the IR with no chance for return this season. Jason Worilds has also sat out quite a bit although he is listed as probable with a wrist injury.
Carter should fare fine with the start as he's seen the most playing time of the lot in the pre-season and most of his teammates are confident in his skills. It could prove to be the dawning of a new era, as Pittsburgh grooms linebackers like the mills that used to dot the area produced Steel.
The running back situation became a little clearer on Friday, as Isaac Redman is now listed as probable. Redman was hobbling around practice during the week, but is slated to be the starter. That is good news for the Steelers considering in his first spot start during the playoffs last year, he gained 121 yards. Rashard Mendenhall who has made a speedy recovery from his surgery could take on an emergency role, but is doubtful for the opener. Another option that the team was hoping to contribute, Baron Batch, is listed as questionable.
Should Redman not be able to go, Jonathon Dwyer, a back who last year showed he is capable of big things against the Titans when he rushed for over 100 yards will be the go-to guy. On Friday Dwyer took most of the snaps with the first team. Rookie Chris Rainey is also an option, but Steeler coach Mike Tomlin does not like to throw rookies into the fire.
Ryan Clark will not play due to his sickle cell condition. He will be replaced by Ryan Mundy.
The following defensive players are all also listed as probable: Linebacker Larry Foote (ankle) and defensive end Brett Keisel (ankle) is also probable.
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Matt Pawlikowski is a veteran journalist covering all things Steelers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.
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