Sunday night could see the debut of two key Steelers — one for this season, the other for his career.
The team has been without key offensive cog Heath Miller at tight end, and it has soldiered on too without running back Le’Veon Bell, who was expected to be their bell cow back this season.
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Both practice fully this week at times, so each could be on the field when the 0-2 Steelers take on the 2-0 Chicago Bears in Pittsburgh. They’d be returning at a critical juncture, as the offense has struggled mightily and the heat has been turned up on coordinator Todd Haley.
Still, Miller is listed as questionable, meaning he has a 50-50 chance of playing. Bell is probable, so he has a 75 percent chance of making his NFL debut this week. On defense, cornerback Cortez Allen (ankle) remains out.
The Bears, meanwhile, might be without one of their key defenders. Cornerback Charles Tillman has only practiced this week on a limited basis with a knee. Wide receiver Brandon Marshall (back), offensive guard Kyle Long (back) and tight end Martellus Bennett (shoulder) all are listed as probable.
Here’s a look at some of the other key injuries from around the NFL for Sunday’s games:
Houston Texans at Baltimore Ravens: Ravens running back Ray Rice (hip) is listed as doubtful, as is defensive tackle Chris Canty. They both should be considered game-time decisions. This game likely will mark the return of safety Ed Reed to Baltimore, although he’s still listed as questionable for the Texans. Receiver Andre Johnson (concussion) has been cleared to play and is probable to go.
New York Giants at Carolina Panthers: The big news for the Giants is that cornerback Corey Webster (hip) is listed as doubtful, which is a tough blow for a shallow secondary, depth-wise. The Panthers will definitely be taxed in their defensive backfield with safety Quintin Mikell (ankle), and corners D.J. Moore (knee) and Josh Thomas (concussion) all listed as out, and cornerback James Dockery (thumb, shoulder) questionable.
Green Bay Packers at Cincinnati Bengals: Running back Eddie Lacy (concussion) missed Friday’s practice and is listed as questionable, but James Starks is expected to start for the Packers. We’ll have to wait another week at least before safety Morgan Burnett returns. For the Bengals, defensive end Robert Geathers (elbow) is out and corner Dre Kirkpatrick (hamstring) is doubtful; both got hurt in Monday’s win over the Steelers.
St. Louis Rams at Dallas Cowboys: Wide receiver Dez Bryant has gotten some good news on his back, and though he’ll have to play through some pain, he will give it a go, apparently. He’s listed as probable, along with corner Morris Claiborne (shoulder), quarterback Tony Romo (ribs) and defensive end DeMarcus Ware (neck). Fellow end Anthony Spencer (knee) is questionable. The Rams will be without offensive tackle Rodger Saffold (knee), but most of the other key contributors should be ready for Sunday.
Cleveland Browns at Minnesota Vikings: With Brandon Weeden (right thumb) out, the Browns will call on Brian Hoyer — not Jason Campbell — to start for the second time in his career. The last one was last season with the Cardinals, in a loss to the 49ers in Week 17. Other key Browns injuries: Ahtyba Rubin (calf) is questionable, and offensive guard Shawn Lauvao (ankle) is doubtful. The Vikings have myriad injuries, but most are not that serious; only Rhett Ellison (knee) has been ruled out.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New England Patriots: For the first time this season, tight end Rob Gronkowski (back, forearm) is listed as questionable — one of six Patriots with such a designation. Gronk will be a game-time decision, reportedly. Receiver Danny Amendola (groin) is doubtful, and not expected to play. For the Bucs, guard Carl Nicks is expected to make his debut Sunday, although he’s listed as questionable. He has been out since August with a foot injury.
Arizona Cardinals at New Orleans Saints: Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald (hamstring) and running back Rashard Mendenhall (toe) have been battling injuries and each are listed as questionable, though expected to give it a go Sunday. The Saints once more will be hurting on defense, with safety Roman Harper (knee) out, defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley (calf) questionable and a slew of players nicked up and listed as probable. Guard Jahri Evans (hamstring) and running back Mark Ingram (toe) also are questionable.
San Diego Chargers at Tennessee Titans: Chargers receiver Malcom Floyd, who suffered a scary neck injury last week, is out, and linebacker Manti Te’o remains doubtful with a foot injury. Two other key Chargers — linebacker Donald Butler (groin) and right tackle D.J. Fluker (concussion) — are questionable. The Titans will be without running back Shonn Greene (knee) and defensive tackle Sammie Lee Hill (ankle) but otherwise should be in decent shape.
Detroit Lions at Washington Redskins: The good news for Detroit is that Reggie Bush, questionable with a knee, appears ready to go. The Redskins have five players listed as questionable — defensive ends Stephen Bowen (knee) and Kedric Golston (abdomen), kicker Kai Forbath (right groin), receiver Leonard Hankerson (hamstring, hip) and safety Brandon Meriweather (concussion).
Atlanta Falcons at Miami Dolphins: The Falcons are among the more banged up teams in the NFL. After placing Sean Weatherspoon and Kroy Biermann on the injury list this week (Weatherspoon can return later), the defense also might have to be without corner Asante Samuel (thight) and the offense will not have left tackle Sam Baker (knee, foot) and running back Steven Jackson (hamstring), both of whom have been ruled out. Receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White continue to gut their way through injuries, too. The Dolphins listed center Mike Pouncey (ankle) and receiver Mike Wallace (groin) as questionable, but as a team they appear to be getting healthier.
Buffalo Bills at New York Jets: Bills safety Jairus Byrd (foot) has been upgraded to questionable after missing the first two weeks, but corner Stephon Gilmore remains out. The Jets are relatively healthy, with no new injuries.
Indianapolis Colts at San Francisco 49ers: The Colts’ defense comes in a little banged up, with safety LaRon Landry (ankle) out and linebacker Pat Angerer (knee) listed doubtful. The 49ers went from one player on the injury list last week, to 10 this week. Most everyone should play, but tight end Vernon Davis (hamstring), running back LaMichael James (knee), defensive tackle Ray McDonald (both ankles) and safety Eric Reid (concussion) are all questionable.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Seattle Seahawks: The 0-2 Jaguars, nearly 20-point dogs, have ruled out four players, including quarterback Blaine Gabbert (throwing hand) and tight end Marcedes Lewis (calf), so Chad Henne once more will start. The Seahawks will be without left tackle Russell Okung, who was placed on the short-term IR with a toe injury, but are fairly healthy otherwise.