By Christina Rivers

With the wild card game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals billed as a physical affair, all eyes are on how the Steelers will once again deal with a key player to their offense being removed from availability to play in a game. Running back DeAngelo Williams has stepped up in a big way for Pittsburgh both at the beginning of the season and after Le’Veon Bell was lost due to injury in their first meeting with the Bengals. Outside of that injury, the Steelers feel that everyone on the roster should be fully prepared and healthy for the playoff game.

Williams suffered a foot injury after rolling an ankle in the Steelers’ final regular season game against the Cleveland Browns. Considered day-to-day by head coach Mike Tomlin as early as Tuesday, Williams’ injury was clarified as dealing more with the foot than the ankle. Williams remained a spectator at practice, a walking boot on the injured right extremity. On Monday, teammate Roosevelt Nix, also in a walking boot and on the injured-reserved list, sent Williams a Twitter message that said, “boot bro’s”. Williams responded, “Lol, but hopefully not for long (no offense but don’t worry we’ll always be bro’s lol)…” Williams also shared a tweet from a fan that asked where his pain level, from one to ten, was with his own response, “Somewhere between 1-10.” The messages paint a picture of a hopeful veteran remaining positive despite being a spectator at practice.

Tomlin indicated that practice participation would be the guide in what would be asked of Williams and both Toussaint and Jordan Todman. “I think it’s appropriate to build our plan around (those two), guys that have been here, guys that are healthy and guys that are willing and capable of being positive contributors to our efforts,” Tomlin said. Toussaint entered the game in the first quarter of last week’s game and finished with 24 yards on 12 carries, but looks to be the Steelers’ featured back against the Browns. The Steelers signed Abou Toure to their practice squad for depth at the position and there is the possibility that Raijon Neal could be added to the active roster as well before the game.

On Thursday, Williams was an outside shot to play with no structural damage to his right foot or ankle.  If Williams can play, it would provide a huge boost to this team, but the reports aren’t looking good.

Wide receiver Martavis Bryant dealt with illness before the final season game and was not sharp while in the game. Bryant has had a nagging neck injury of unspecified nature, but Tomlin indicated that he expects him to be ready to go, much like outside linebacker Jarvis Jones. The Steelers had a few players take time off this week, but none of the players who were not in attendance were dealing with an injury. Linebacker Vince Williams missed Wednesday due to injury, but others took a veteran’s day off.

Cincinnati has spent their week preparing A.J. McCarron to start against the Steelers. Andy Dalton, who suffered a broken thumb in the second showdown of the regular season between these two teams, was in sweats Wednesday morning during the team’s practice. Tomlin admitted that, even though the Steelers haven’t specifically prepared a gameplan for McCarron prior to this post-season game, he sees no need to change what the Steelers have been doing. “I see very little schematic difference in terms of how they’re attacking people, whether (McCarron’s) in there or whether Andy (Dalton) is in there,” Tomlin said. “It’s probably a compliment not only to him and his preparation and his ability to learn and prepare on a limited number of snaps, but also to their coaching staff. Hue Jackson and those guys, they’re teachers. Their program hasn’t skipped a beat.” In fact, went 2-1 with McCarron as their starting quarterback the last three weeks.

The Bengals placed backup defensive tackle Brandon Thompson on injured-reserve (knee) and replaced him on their active roster with DeShawn Williams. Pat Sims has taken the most snaps behind Thompson as an eight-year veteran and is expected to be the starter on Saturday.

Questionable
DeAngelo Williams (RB, foot)

Probable
William Gay (CB, not injury related)
James Harrison (LB, not injury related)
Heath Miller (TE, not injury related)
Vince Williams (LB, illness)

Christina Rivers has covered the Pittsburgh Steelers and National Football League professionally as a journalist and photographer for over a decade. Rivers studied Exercise Physiology and Sports Psychology at Brigham Young University as a student-athlete. Christina is a freelance writer covering all things NFL as well as a published author. Her work can be found on
Examiner.com.

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