Mike Tomlin is, by all accounts, a creative, passionate and persuasive head coach. But there's nothing he can do about the whims of the NFL schedule — and the cruelness of the injury gods. Please have your copay (and your Terrible Towel) ready to go as we open up another Injury Wrap.
The Steelers face the arch-rival Ravens in two of the next three weeks, including the main event this Sunday night. And while the Steelers have the advantage of being home this week, they'll go into the game with an injury-riddled roster.
Ben Roethlisberger is the biggest hit, of course. He's dealing with shoulder and rib injuries and there's been talk of him potentially needing six weeks to recover. Byron Leftwich will hold down the fort in the meantime. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley was letting it fly earlier in the season, but he'll have to scale things back now.
At least Leftwich has plenty of help in the backfield; Rashard Mendenhall (Achilles) is expected to return, and start, Sunday night. But before you start relearning the Mendy Hop, keep in mind Jonathan Dwyer looms as a change-of-pace back and Isaac Redman could be the preferred option on third down. And if anyone in this mix shows a hot hand in the first half, they presumably could be the featured option down the stretch. Have fun with the backfield bingo, gamers.
Leftwich is working with decent receivers, but Antonio Brown (ankle) won't be in that group. He's already been ruled out for Week 11. Emmanuel Sanders takes the start in Brown's place, and Jerricho Cotchery might see the odd target here and there.
Call me crazy, but I'm still picking the Steelers with the points (more on that when the Darts go to post). I simply don't trust this Ravens team on the road. Now let's take a look at some of the other fantasy-relevant injuries around the league (working in the usual order: QB, RB, WR, TE):
• Jay Cutler (concussion) and Michael Vick (concussion) won't play for their respective clubs this week; make way for Jason Campbell to start at San Francisco and Nick Foles to play against Washington. I like the potential of Foles against that horrendous Redskins defense; a full week of reps and preparation could go a long way.
• Alex Smith (post concussion) had a limited workout Friday and is on schedule to play against Chicago. The Saturday practice/news cycle matters for teams playing on Monday, so we'll keep an eye on Smith. That said, the Niners probably won't want to air it out against that formidable Bears defense.
• Darren Sproles (hand) had another workout Friday, though he's listed as questionable for Sunday's game in Oakland. It's a tricky 4:05 pm ET start and the Saints obviously have a ridiculous amount of backfield depth (nodding to you, Mark Ingram, Chris Ivory and Pierre Thomas), so it's almost impossible to start any of these guys with much confidence. Do you feel lucky?
• According to Chargers beat reporter Michael Gehlken, Ryan Mathews (neck) was back at practice Friday after missing the two previous days. Nonetheless, Mathews is listed as questionable for the game at Denver. Just what we don't need, another tricky call from the second wave of games. Even if Mathews is able to start, this feels like it could be a week where Ronnie Brown carves out a solid day (through his role in the passing game).
• The Raiders are without Darren McFadden (ankle) and Mike Goodson (ankle) once again, so dial up the Marcel Reece ticket where it's appropriate.
• Michael Turner (groin) is listed as questionable on the heels of a limited practice week. It seems like he'll go against Arizona, but double check on game day just to be sure. He sure looked sluggish last week in New Orleans.
• Maurice Jones-Drew (foot) won't play in Week 11 and remains out indefinitely. With Jacksonville's season in the shredder, there's no sense of urgency here.
• Donald Brown (knee) had a full workout Friday and should be in the mix, along with Vick Ballard, at New England.
• Ben Tate (hamstring) is out once again, which means Justin Forsett will back up Arian Foster.
• Julio Jones (ankle) missed the full practice week and is listed as questionable to play against Arizona. We might not know his status until Sunday.
• Although Pierre Garcon (foot) is nowhere near 100 percent, he likely will give it a shot against Philadelphia. I'll probably slot him somewhere in the 40s this week at the wideout position.
• Jeremy Maclin (back) is listed as probable, so go ahead and use him against Washington. I'm also curious what Riley Cooper might do here: he's moving up a slot in the pecking order with Jason Avant (hamstring) unavailable.
• Greg Jennings (groin) remains out indefinitely and won't dress at Detroit. Jordy Nelson (hamstring) had a solid week and the Packers list him as probable.
• Calvin Johnson (knee) had his normal week of low maintenance; he did some limited work the last two days. He's expected to play in his normal role against Green Bay,
• I like Carson Palmer to make hay against the New Orleans secondary, but he might have to do it without Darrius Heyward-Bey (bad hamstring, didn't practice Friday). The news is better with underrated tight end Brandon Myers: he passed his concussion test earlier in the week and has been active at practice.
• The Jets didn't let Jeremy Kerley (heel/hamstring) practice Friday and he's listed as questionable, though context clues point to him playing at St. Louis. But do you really want to spin the wheel of Mark Sanchez?
• The Bengals are listing Andrew Hawkins (knee) as questionable, though he didn't miss any reps Wednesday or Thursday. He had a limited workout Friday.
• Jonathan Baldwin (neck) has already been ruled out for Week 11. You don't want any non-Bowe option in this passing game. Heck, you might not want Bowe in some instances.
• Alshon Jeffery (hand) is expected to play Monday, if you're absolutely crushed at the receiver position. But given the matchup (and the switch to Campbell), the upside appears limited.
• Although the Patriots are listing a host of players as questionable — par for the course — the tea leaves aren't encouraging for tight end Aaron Hernandez (ankle). Albert Breer of NFL Network is reporting that Hernandez, per a team source, isn't expected to play against the Colts. Wes Welker (ankle) and Rob Gronkowski (hip) are both expected to suit up, despite the questionable tag.
• It's a tricky call on Houston tight end Owen Daniels (hip); although he practiced Friday, he's still considered a game-day call for the Sunday match against Jacksonville. Is there any great reason for the Texans to expose their star tight end against such an inferior foe? At least the game is in the early wave, so we'll have time to adjust. Head coach Gary Kubiak expects Daniels to play.
• Coby Fleener (shoulder) won't go at New England. In theory, that's good for Dwayne Allen.
• Left tackle Jared Gaither won't play for San Diego, a plus for the Broncos pass rush. Felipe Rivers had a second half from hell in the prior meeting. Sticking with this theme, Denver expects DE Elvis Dumervil (shoulder) to start.
• Joe Haden (oblique) is a game-day call for the match at Dallas. He's obviously the most critical player in Cleveland's defense; the Browns allowed 34, 24, 23 and 41 points in the four games Haden missed earlier this year.
• The Packers will be without two of their key defenders at Detroit, linebacker Clay Matthews and safety Charles Woodson.
Let's be careful out there, amigos. You've got 36 hours until kickoff. In the meantime, here's E. B. Evans with some Fantasy Monsters for Week 11. Video killed the radio star.