The already short handed Pittsburgh Steelers defense will be without another two key contributors this week, as cornerback Joe Haden and inside linebacker Robert Spillane have both been ruled out for Sunday’s nights showdown with the Buffalo Bills.
Haden has missed practice all week with a concussion suffered in Monday’s loss to Washington. This marks the second-straight week the Steelers will be down one of their starting corners, after Steven Nelson sat out last week. Cam Sutton and Justin Layne will likely step into the lineup for Haden as they did for he and Nelson against Washington.
Spillane (knee) has also missed the entire week of practice. He injured the knee early in the third quarter of the Washington loss.
Adding to the severity of Spillane’s absence, the Steelers will also be without fellow inside linebacker Vince Williams, who was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list Thursday afternoon. Spillane had been a pleasant surprise for Pittsburgh since stepping in versus the Tennessee Titans once second-year starter Devin Bush was lost for the season with a torn ACL.
The Steelers did receive some good news Friday, in that kicker Chris Boswell (hip) will return to the lineup Sunday. The veteran missed last week’s game, and was replaced by practice squad kicker Matthew Wright.
Boswell sat out on Wednesday, but has been a full participant the last two days, clearing him to make his return at Buffalo.
After missing Thursday’s session with an illness, rookie wide receiver Chase Claypool practiced fully on Friday and is prepared to play against the Bills.
Defensive tackle Chris Wormley sat out on Wednesday with an illness, but was a full participant on Thursday and Friday.
As for Buffalo, only second-year safety and special teams contributor Jaquan Johnson is listed out for Sunday’s matchup. He has played the second-most special teams snaps on the Bills this season, and has three tackles in 2020.
Defensive lineman Quinton Jefferson (hip) is expected to play. He sat Wednesday and was limited for Thursday’s session, but practiced fully on Friday.
Alex Highsmith Needs MRI after Ankle Injury Suffered vs. Browns
PITTSBURGH — Steelers rookie linebacker Alex Highsmith suffered an ankle injury that will require an MRI in Sunday’s playoff loss to the Cleveland Browns.
Highsmith left the game in the first half and was seen limping on the Pittsburgh sideline. He made an attempt to return to the game, but was unable to continue playing and did not see the field at all in the second half.
In-game, the Steelers announced that Highsmith was doubtful to return with an ankle injury. After the fact, head coach Mike Tomlin said that Highsmith suffered a high ankle sprain. Highsmith’s father posted on Twitter early on Monday morning that Highsmith will require an MRI on his injured ankle.
Not the way we wanted the season to end but I am thankful to have been a part of this amazing ride! The Highsmith Family is proud to wear the Black & Gold and we look forward to more success in the future! Please pray for Alex as he gets an MRI tomorrow on his ankle! #HereWeGo pic.twitter.com/JJA4PpZpvx
— Sam Highsmith (@SHighsmithClan) January 11, 2021
Given that Highsmith was able to walk and even run in short bursts after the injury, it does not seem likely that it will impact his offseason training plans.
The team’s third-round draft pick out of Charlotte, Highsmith was thrust into a starting role after starting outside linebacker Bud Dupree suffered an ACL injury that required surgery.
On the season, Highsmith played in 16 regular season game and made five starts. He finished with 48 tackles, five for a loss, six quarterback hits, one interception and one pass defended.
With Dupree set to become an unrestricted free agent and unlikely to return, Highsmith should be expected to retain his starting role in 2021.
Steelers OLB Alex Highsmith Leaves Game with Ankle Injury, Doubtful to Return
PITTSBURGH — Steelers outside linebacker Alex Highsmith has left the team’s Wild Card Round playoff game against the Cleveland Browns with an ankle injury and is doubtful to return, the team announced.
Highsmith suffered the injury in the first half and attempted to return to play, but was unable to continue.
He was replaced on the field by a combination of third-year backup Ola Adeniyi and Cassius Marsh, who was signed from the Indianapolis practice squad in December.
Highsmith had been replacing starter Bud Dupree, who was lost for the season to an ACL injury.
The rookie out of Charlotte was the Steelers’ third-round selection in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Steelers Injury Updates: JuJu Smith-Schuster Practiced Fully Friday, Chris Boswell Limited
The Pittsburgh Steelers are relatively healthy entering their opening round playoff matchup with the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, as only kicker Chris Boswell was listed on the team’s injury report as being less than a full participant in practice on Friday.
Boswell was limited on Friday as he continues to recover from the groin injury that has forced him to miss the last two games. He was also limited on Wednesday, but was a full participant during Thursday’s session.
Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (knee) returned to the practice field Friday after sitting out on Thursday. He had practiced fully on Wednesday as well, but was newly added yesterday.
Defensive end Isaiah Buggs (illness) was also added to the injury report Thursday, but was a full participant on Friday.
Safety Terrell Edmunds (shoulder), cornerback Steven Nelson (knee), nose tackle Tyson Alualu (ankle) and linebacker Vince Williams (quad) were all full participants during Friday’s practice session as well, positioning the Steelers to be healthy heading into Sunday’s playoff game against the Browns.