With an offense firing on all cylinders, especially in the second half, the Steelers were the only team this season to score 30 or more points on the Denver Broncos and their No. 1-ranked defense when the teams met Dec. 20 at Heinz Field.
That offense, though, could be lacking some octane when the Steelers and Broncos get together Sunday in Denver for an AFC divisional playoff game, maybe even missing a spark plug or two.
While the Steelers are hoping and even expecting Ben Roethlisberger and All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown to play against the Broncos, they are not sure just how each might be able to perform coming off their injuries.
Tomlin mum on Cincinnati
Mike Tomlin gives an update on Roethlisberger and Brown in his weekly press conference. (Video by Andrew Rush; 1/12/2016)
Both players were injured in the playoff victory Saturday night in Cincinnati, each on hits by Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict.
The Steelers, however, are not expecting running back DeAngelo Williams to be ready — meaning they will once again split the duties between Fitzgerald Toussaint and Jordan Todman, both of whom coach Mike Tomlin lauded for their performance against the Bengals.
“Ben has a chance,” Tomlin said Tuesday at his weekly news conference. “We will manage him day-to-day. He will probably be a partial participant tomorrow to get his run game readiness ready to go. We will increase his activity as the week goes.”
Roethlisberger said on his weekly radio show he has an AC joint sprain — also known as a separated shoulder — plus some torn ligaments in his right shoulder. He is not expected to be a full participant in practice until late in the week, possibly not until Friday.
Brown is in concussion protocol after he was hit in the head by Burfict after an incomplete pass at the Bengals 32 — a play that resulted in a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty against Burfict that helped lead to the winning field goal by Chris Boswell with 14 seconds remaining.
Brown, though, has told coaches and players he is feeling a lot better and said on his Instagram account that he is “all good” for the Broncos. He was all but unstoppable in the first meeting against the Broncos in December, catching 16 passes for 189 yards and two touchdowns in a 34-27 comeback victory.
“We respect the protocol,” Tomlin said. “We are going to adhere to it and follow it to the letter. He is going to participate fully in it. We will see where it leads us. Obviously, we are hopeful, but we are always hopeful. We are going to do what is right when it’s said and done. “
Tomlin said the Steelers will get backup Landry Jones ready in case Roethlisberger is unable to play. Roethlisberger has never lost a divisional-round playoff game (4-0).
Roethlisberger was injured when he was sacked by Burfict and landed on his right shoulder on the final play of the third quarter Saturday night in Cincinnati.
An AC sprain is a relatively common sports injury that affects the shoulder and is characterized by tears in the connective tissue and ligaments of the Acromio-Clavicular joint, according to several medical websites. It typically occurs due to a specific incident such as a direct blow to the point of the shoulder.
“That is going to provide an awesome opportunity for Landry to get the physical reps necessary to deliver for us if called upon,” Tomlin said.
Meantime, Tomlin said Williams (sprained foot), the AFC’s fourth-leading rusher who did not play against the Bengals, is “still on the outside looking in,” meaning it is unlikely he will play against the Broncos.
In his absence, Toussaint (58) and Todman (65) combined for 123 yards on 28 carries against the Bengals. Toussaint also had four catches for 60 yards, giving him 118 yards from scrimmage.
“I thought our young running backs did a nice job answering the call,” Tomlin said. “They did a nice job allowing us to maintain the personality we wanted to retain in the run game. Their contributions under those circumstances were impressive. They may have to do it again this week.”
Tomlin said he expected linebacker Vince Williams (hamstring) and safety Robert Golden (shoulder) to play in Denver.
Tomlin also said that linebackers coach Joey Porter did not receive a game ball for drawing the personal-foul penalty by Bengals cornerback Adam Jones that led to the winning field goal. Several national reports said Porter did.
“Untrue,” Tomlin said.
Gerry Dulac: email@example.com and Twitter @gerrydulac.
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