Continuing the pattern we've seen so far this season, the Pittsburgh Steelers have a lot of players on the injury report. Thankfully, a lot of the players are listed as probable. Still, injuries have most definitely hurt the Steelers this year, who were preseason Super Bowl contenders.
Lifetime Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has had an injury-plagued season so far. Last week against the Seattle Seahawks, Big Ben suffered a head injury that was either a minor concussion or a very bad migraine. Either way, Roethlisberger is listed as probable for week thirteen, according to Bob Labriola of Steelers Digest. The Indianapolis Colts sport the 27th best passing defense in the league, so as long as Big Ben can stay healthy, he could be in for a very big game this week.
The freakishly athletic wide receiver Martavis Bryant missed a day of practice this week, according to Labriola, but is listed as probable with a hip injury. Bryant didn't do anything last week against Seattle to blow anyone away (except completely out-run the Seahawks' contain on and end around for a touchdown). But, the Colts secondary isn't near as good as the Legion of Boom, so Bryant could be in line for a huge game Sunday night.
Second year middle linebacker Ryan Shazier has not been able to stay healthy this season. When he has, he has not lived up to his expectations. Like Roethlisberger, Shazier sustained a concussion last week but is listed as probable according to Labriola. Shazier has the athletic abilities to recover receivers or running backs out of the backfield, as well as fly up to the line of scrimmage and meet the ball carrier in the hole. Ryan Shazier has all the tools, and he needs to start using them, because he is definitely one of the most important players to this defense.
Even at 37 years old, James Harrison is still one of the best players on the Steelers' defense. Most players, by the time they reach 37, are reserves who are around to mentor the younger players and help them develop. Harrison does that, but he also gets after the quarterback almost as well as he could six or seven years ago. Indianapolis does not have a very good offensive line, so the Steelers' front seven could be in for a big day. Harrison, who Labriola reported as probable with a knee injury, will likely be in the backfield getting after Matt Hasselback and firing up the younger guys to do to the same.
During his time with the Steelers, Mike Mitchell hasn't really been known to be a great coverage safety. Instead, he made his living off of big hits. This year, on the other hand, Mitchell has been the leader of Pittsburgh's very weak secondary. Currently, he leads the team in interceptions with three. Labriola has reported that Mitchell is probable with a knee injury. The Steelers will need to contain the Hasselback-led passing attack, which has been very good this year, and it all starts with Mike Mitchell.
33-year-old safety Will Allen is probable with an ankle injury, Labriola reported. Allen has been dealing with injuries all season, but he really hasn't been that good when he's healthy. Last week, the Seahawks threw all over the Steelers, and Allen was definitely one of the top people to blame. It might be time for Mike Tomlin to start exploring other options at strong safety. Shamarko Thomas is sitting on the bench with loads of potential that he never really got a chance to show. If Tomlin does take a different route than Allen, it would make the fans happy, as things can't get much worse.
Since he was drafted in 2005, Heath Miller has been the tight end for the Steelers. For most of those seasons, Miller was an important part of Pittsburgh's offense. This year, ever since Roethlisberger returned from a knee injury, Miller was seeing his number being called a lot. Last week, he was being targeted frequently until he had to leave the game with a rib injury. Labriola reported that Miller is officially listed as questionable, though it seems unlikely that he'll play. Reserve tight ends Matt Spaeth and Jesse James will have to step up and fill the void.
Sean Spence will not play in Sunday night's game due to a hamstring injury, according to Labriola. This is a much bigger deal than it may seem to appear at first. Spence is very similar to Shazier, as he is very athletic and explosive. Now, there is pressure on Shazier to stay healthy. If he would have to leave the game, the Steelers would be down to Lawrence Timmons and Vince Williams, both of whom are bigger, more physical, slower types of linebackers. With those two on the field together, the middle of the field could be exposed big time to the Colts passing attack, which could be bad news. Spence will definitely be missed this week.
As they currently sit in eighth place in the AFC, the Steelers' backs are against the walls. They can afford to lose no more than one game the rest of the season. Whether it be the starters or the reserves, Pittsburgh must come to play Sunday night and bring home a win.