By Daniel Benjamin
The Pittsburgh Steelers' offensive line hasn't played up to its potential this year—at least until this past week against Kansas City. Some of that had to do with injuries to key personnel. The Steelers' entire starting offensive line has not played two full games together as right tackle Marcus Gilbert has missed three games and Ramon Foster has been forced to sit out a week.
And it looks like the offensive line will be without one starter for their Week 7 contest against the Cincinnati Bengals. Gilbert, who returned to the lineup for the first time since leaving Week 2's game early, left the game against the Chiefs after re-aggravating his hamstring injury in the second quarter. Prior to his departure, Gilbert helped running back Le'Veon Bell pick up 71 of his 179 rushing yards on the day.
Gilbert is officially listed as doubtful on the team's injury report for Sunday, and it doesn't look good for the 29-year-old as he did not practice the entire week. That's bad news for the Steelers, who are facing a very explosive Bengals front seven featuring linebacker Vontaze Burfict. The Bengals have limited their last three opponents to an average of 57 yards a game, and have not permitted a single runner over 100-yards on the ground this season. Their defense has also recorded the fifth most sacks with 18, including 14 in the last three games.
Versatile offensive lineman Chris Hubbard will likely take Gilbert's place in the starting lineup like he did the previous three weeks that Hubbard missed.
On a positive note, starting left guard Ramon Foster is expected to return to the lineup after missing the game against the Chiefs with a back injury. Foster was a full practice participant every day this week. B.J. Finney started in place of Foster last year.
Linebacker Vince Williams is expected to play against Cincinnati, defensive end Stephon Tuitt is not
Starting right inside linebacker Vince Williams had a monster game against the Chiefs, though he missed the latter stages of the contest with a hip injury. Williams, who has a team-high four sacks, is expected to play against Cincinnati despite being held out of practice on Wednesday and Thursday. He was a full practice participant on Friday and wasn't even listed on the injury report.
”If you play linebacker for the Steelers, you’re a pass rusher,” Williams told reporters. ”If you play safety for the Steelers, you’re a pass rusher. If you play corner for the Steelers, you’re a pass rusher. That’s how it works.”
”I’m full go. I’m ready to go.”
While Williams is all set to play, defensive end Stephon Tuitt will not be available. Tuitt has not practiced all week due to a back injury. This marks the third game this season Tuitt has missed.
Eighth-year defensive end Tyson Aluala will get the start in place of Tuitt. Aluala was excellent while filling in for Tuitt earlier in the year, collecting 11 of his 16 tackles on the season.
Bengals full injury report
Cornerback Adam Jones is the Bengals' biggest injury concern. He is currently listed as doubtful with a back injury after not practicing on Thursday and Friday. Jones, the Bengals' No. 2 corner, was limited in practice on Wednesday.
It will be a big blow to the Bengals secondary if Jones is unable to go. He had done a pretty good job covering Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown the last two years. With Jones unlikely able to go, cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick will likely shadow Brown, meaning 2016 first round draft pick William Jackson III might be thrust into action. Jackson has 10 tackles on the season after missing his entire rookie campaign.
Wide receiver John Ross (knee) and safety Derron Smith (ankle) have been upgraded to questionable. Ross has missed four of the first five weeks and Smith has missed the last three weeks. H-Back Ryan Hewitt (knee) and reserve wide receiver Tyler Boyd (knee) have been ruled out for a second straight week.
Steelers Full injury report
- OT Marcus Gilbert (Hamstring). Doubtful.
- DE Stephon Tuitt (Back). Out.
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