Injured wide receiver Courtland Sutton will play for the Denver Broncos at Heinz Field on Sunday, but running back Phillip Lindsay is among the inactive players.
Sutton missed the Broncos’ opener after suffering shoulder injury in practice and was officially listed as questionable for the game on Friday.
Sutton was the Broncos’ leading receiver in 2019, when he led the team in targets (124), catches (72), yards (1,112) and receiving touchdowns (six). Without Sutton, rookie Jerry Jeudy was the most productive Denver receiver in the team’s season opener against Tennessee on Monday night.
Running back Phillip Lindsay will miss the game with a toe injury. He was ruled out on Friday. Melvin Gordon III is expected to start in his place.
Also dressing from the Denver injury report is tackle Garett Bolles, who was questionable with an elbow injury. Penn State alum and rookie wide receiver KJ Hamler will be active for the first time.
Former Steelers linebackers Mark Barron (hamstring) is also out and fellow former Steelers linebacker Anthony Chickillo is a healthy scratch. The other Denver scratches are wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland, guard Netane Muti, tight end Albert Okwuegbunam and defensive tackle McTelvin Agim.
Steelers Know ‘Too Much Splash’ Allowed vs. Titans Cause for Concern
The Steelers are certainly happy with the 6-0 record that they brought back with them from Tennessee on Sunday, but the way the victory happened left an unpleasant taste in the mouth of the victorious Black and Gold.
After racing out to a 27-7 lead, the Steelers yielded points on three of the next four Tennessee possessions, turned the ball over twice, had to sweat a last-minute field goal attempt and were fortunate that Stephen Gostkowski’s effort slipped wide right, securing Pittsburgh the win.
The first half of the game was the way the Steelers want to play football, with a methodical, patient offense that dominated the time of possession and a defense that limited star Titans running back Derrick Henry and got off the field on third down.
But what happened in the second half is what is going to stick with them.
“There was too much splash,” linebacker T.J. Watt said. “We have goals so high for ourselves because we know what we can do. We feel like we can be a truly special defense. That’s why no one’s really satisfied after today. We need to do a lot better job, especially in the second half. It starts with the run. Even though we did a good job in the first half, you’ve got to roll it over into the second half.”
As usual, defensive captain Cam Heyward summed up the mood.
“We’re 6-0. We won the game. Nothing’s guaranteed. It’s a good win,” Heyward said. “But there’s a lot we’ve got to improve on going forward. We were able to answer the challenge in some cases, but we’ve got bigger challenges ahead going forward. …
“There’s a lot of meat on that bone as Coach likes to say. I’m fine saying that. I believe in the guys that we’ve got. I’m confident that we can do more. I look forward to answering the call next week.”
Not that the Tennessee Titans aren’t a quality opponent — they were 5-0 coming in to Sunday’s game — but the Steelers know that as the season goes on and the games get critical, the mistakes they made in the second half against the Titans can be enough to end a team’s season.
“We gave up a big play for a touchdown, we turned the ball over. You do those things against good people, they’re going to get back into the game 100 percent of the time,” head coach Mike Tomlin said. “Thankfully, our guys didn’t blink and they were able to hold it together and make enough plays to secure victory.”
But they’re also thankful to be working on correcting those errors with a 6-0 record, alone in first place in the AFC North.
“It’s so important to get out of these games with a win, no matter how awesome or how ugly they look,” Watt said. “The offense did a phenomenal job today, and the defense, we’ve got to do a better job in the second half. … I’m not satisfied at all.”
From the Steelers Locker Room: Johnson, Smith-Schuster on Setting the Tone
Steelers wide receivers Diontae Johnson and JuJu Smith-Schuster speak with the media, including Alan Saunders of Steelers Now, via Zoom after the Steelers’ 27-24 victory over the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020.
Johnson and Smith-Schuster talked about the Steelers’ offense setting the tone for the game with its successful first drive and how the team took what it was given against the Tennessee zone defense.
Steelers’ Robert Spillane Makes Impact Filling in for Devin Bush at ILB
The Steelers were faced with a double test on Sunday in their first game to be played without starting inside linebacker Devin Bush.
So far, so good.
Bush was placed on injured reserve and is expected to miss the remainder of the 2020 season after suffering an ACL injury that required surgery in the Steelers’ Week 6 win over the Cleveland Browns.
His replacement, third-year pro Robert Spillane, performed admirably against tough competition. The Tennessee Titans run the ball with All-Pro back Derrick Henry better than almost anyone in the country and the also use a pair of talented tight ends and play-action passes to put pressure on defenses.
But the inexperienced Spillane, making his first career start after playing just 39 career snaps on defense coming into the game, proved to be mostly up to the task in Pittsburgh’s 27-24 victory.
“It’s very tough to fill in that middle linebacker position, especially when you have a player as talented as Devin is,” outside linebacker T.J. Watt said. “We truly believe in the next-man-up mentality and I feel like Rob Spillane did a great job.”
The Steelers also made some other changes, moving Bud Dupree around the defense and also some modifications to their sub packages in order to replicate the three-down effort that Bush usually brings.
“We knew it was going to take the whole team to provide depth for Devin,” Spillane said. “We knew it was going to be 11 on defense, offense and special teams to make up for his absence.”
Spillane’s biggest impact — literally — came in the second half at the Steelers’ goal line, when he plugged a gap on a running play and collided with Henry at full speed.
Robert Spillane, I SALUTE you. If people didn't know who you were before this play, they will after this. I promise you, you will see this play ALL WEEK! pic.twitter.com/koZzfUsvFo
— Charlie Batch (@CharlieBatch16) October 25, 2020
“They’re on the 1-yard line,” Spillane said. “They’ve got a 250-pound running back. There’s no going slow into the hole. I took all my force with me and TJ was there to help, as well.”
Spillane briefly left the game after the big hit and the Titans wound up scoring later on that drive after a defensive penalty on Minkah Fitzpatrick, but on the whole, there defense did a better job of limiting Henry and company than most.
He finished the afternoon with 75 yards on 20 carries, which is the second-lowest rushing total for for the big back over his last 10 games.
On the whole, the Steelers weren’t completely satisfied with their performance defensively, especially in the second half but Spillane’s fill-in work did the trick.