PITTSBURGH — The Steelers and running back James Conner are expecting that he’ll be able to play this Thursday when the team visits the Cleveland Browns, but he may not be 100 percent.
Conner, who was injured late in the Steelers’ Week 8 win over the Miami Dolphins, missed his second straight game on Sunday, but said he anticipates playing on Thursday in Cleveland.
“I’m making a lot of progress on it and I think I’ll be good to go,” Conner said on Monday. “I can’t make any guarantees, but as of right now, I’m feeling good and things are looking very confident for me playing Thursday.” Conner suffered an AC joint sprain. The AC joint is the mechanism that allows people to move their arms upward and over their head. With the injury, he lost strength, and more importantly, that range of motion that has prevented him from doing his job.
“The game I was out vs. the Colts, Jaylen [Samuels] had 13 receptions,” Conner said. “Earlier on in the week, it was hard for me to get my arm above my head. Had that been me, maybe I wouldn’t have caught all those balls Jaylen did.”
The injury is similar to the one that cornerback Joe Haden suffered in Week 1 against the New England Patriots. Even though he did not miss a game, it took him several weeks of being limited in practice before he was fully healed. Similarly, Conner might not be at 100 percent when he does return to the lineup.
“It’s going to be pain management,” Conner said. “Play through it.”
Head coach Mike Tomlin said that he’s optimistic that Conner and left guard Ramon Foster will be able to return to action on Thursday.
“We full comfortable about his ability to be available to us, as we do Ramon Foster,” Tomlin said. “We have to get through the week in that regard.”
Tomlin was less than optimistic about the chances of injured running back Benny Snell, Jr. (meniscus) and fullback Roosevelt Nix (knee) rejoining the lineup. Additionally, three more players were injured on Sunday: Wide receiver and kick returner Ryan Switzer suffered a back injury, outside linebacker Ola Adeniyi a hip injury and outside linebacker Anthony Chickillo a rib cartilage injury.
Tomlin did not offer a prognosis for those players, but said the short week makes it difficult for them to prove their readiness.
“There won’t be a lot of opportunities through the course of the week for those guys to work into the rotation or show their availability.”
The Steelers did not practice on Monday, but gave a simulated injury report that listed Conner as a full participant, Foster as limited and the other five injured players as non-participants.
Steelers Injury Updates: DeCastro and Wisniewski Out for Sunday
Pittsburgh Steelers guards David DeCastro (knee) and Stefen Wisniewski (pectoral muscle) both did not practice Friday and are listed as out for Sunday’s home opener against the Denver Broncos.
DeCastro has been hobbled for several weeks since injuring his knee in training camp and missed last week’s game against the New York Giants, while Wisniewski started Monday night, but left in the fourth quarter. Wisniewski was placed on the reserve/injured list Friday afternoon.
With both sidelined, rookie guard Kevin Dotson looks slated to make his first career start on Sunday.
James Conner (ankle) was a full participant in practice again Friday after leaving the season opener in the second quarter. By getting a feel for his health and receiving treatment, Conner believes he is “definitely trending in the right direction.”
With injuries forcing him to miss six games in 2019, Conner expressed frustration when speaking with the media Friday.
“(The injury) was frustrating, I wanted to be out there. We won the game, that is the most important thing,” he said. “I am not naïve. I know stuff happens. I am trying to do everything I can to stay healthy. I am going to stay in my lane and leave it in God’s hands and everything is going to be all right.”
Wide receivers Diontae Johnson (toe) and JuJu Smith-Schuster (foot), left tackle Alejandro Villanueva (illness) and defensive end Stephon Tuitt (Achilles) were also all full participants in practice on Friday. All had missed practice Wednesday with minor ailments, but have now participated two-straight days and are ready for Sunday.
Steelers Injury Updates: DeCastro, Wisniewski Still Out; Rest of Team Back in Action
The Steelers got a good bit more healthy on Thursday, as eight of the 10 players that missed Wednesday’s practice returned to work for the team’s second session in preparation for hosting the Denver Broncos on Sunday.
Guards David DeCastro (knee) and Stefen Wisniewski (pectoral muscle) were the lone holdouts. DeCastro has missed several weeks since injuring his knee in a training camp scrimmage. Wisniewski started the Steelers’ season opener against the New York Giants on Monday night in his place, but left the game in the fourth quarter, giving way to rookie Kevin Dotson, who appears to be in line to start in Week 2.
James Conner also left that game with an ankle injury, but was a full participant in practice on Thursday. Head coach Mike Tomlin said on Tuesday that he would “leave the light on” for both Conner and Wisniewski to return to action. Conner’s participation on Thursday portends a positive trend, though Benny Snell was productive while replacing him on Monday and could demand a greater workload going forward.
Wide receivers Diontae Johnson (toe) and JuJu Smith-Schuster (knee) and defensive end Stephon Tuitt (Achilles) all finished the game but did not practice on Wednesday with apparently minor ailments and returned to action on Thursday.
Also back at work were left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, who missed Wednesday with an illness, and center Maurkice Pouncey and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who were given Wednesday off.
10 Steelers Did Not Practice Wednesday, Including Conner, DeCastro, Johnson, Smith-Schuster
Ten Steelers did not practice during Wednesday’s first session of the week as the team begins preparation for the Denver Broncos, which come to Heinz Field on Sunday.
According to the team’s injury report, center Maurkice Pouncey, defensive end Stephon Tuitt, guards David DeCastro and Stefen Wisniewski, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, running back James Conner, tackles Zach Banner and Alejandro Villanueva and wide receivers Diontae Johnson and JuJu Smith-Schuster did not participate in Wednesday’s practice.
Smith-Schuster (knee), Johnson (toe) and Tuitt (Achilles) are suffering from newly revealed injuries. Their status for this Sunday’s game remains unclear.
Banner (right ACL), Conner (ankle) and Wisniewski (pectoral muscle) were injured in Monday night’s win over the New York Giants. Banner is expected to undergo surgery on Friday and miss the rest of the season. Head coach Mike Tomlin said that he would “leave the light on” for Conner and Wisniewski to be able to play this week.
DeCastro (knee) has been out since the second week of training camp, but Tomlin said on Tuesday that he was hopeful he would be able to practice this week.
Villanueva has an illness. Roethlisberger and Pouncey were listed as coach’s decisions. Roethlisberger has typically taken Wednesday practices off for the last few seasons.
During the Giants game, Benny Snell replaced Conner at running back, Chukwuma Okorafor replaced Banner at right tackle and Kevin Dotson replaced Wisniewski and DeCastro at right guard.