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Injuries testing Steelers’ depth

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The Sports Xchange

The injuries are starting to pile up for the Steelers. In their 25-13 victory against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, they lost their starting left tackle for the season and finished the game with their third-string quarterback.

The biggest injury was to tackle Kelvin Beachum, who tore the ACL in his left knee in the first half. He was replaced by first-year player Alejandro Villanueva, who did not allow a sack in his first extended action of his career.

Beachum is the second starter on the offensive line who is likely out for the season. Center Maurkice Pouncey is on injured reserve/designated for return, but he had a second surgery on his injured left leg last week after an infection developed. He was going to miss a minimum of eight games, but he could now miss the entire season.

Backup quarterback Mike Vick left the game in the third quarter with a hamstring injury and was replaced by Landry Jones, who led four second-half scoring drives to help the Steelers win.

Pittsburgh might be getting some positive news on the injury front this week. Starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette after the game against the Cardinals that he will tape his injured knee and would like to be a full participant in practice on Wednesday.

The Steelers preach a next man up mentality across all positions, and their record without Roethlisberger in recent years shows the players buy into the concept. Since the beginning of the 2010 season, when Roethlisberger was suspended for four games by the NFL, the Steelers are 7-4 with a slew of backups, including Vick and Jones this season.

The Steelers are 2-1 without Roethlisberger this season, and the only game they lost was the result of two missed field goals by Josh Scobee against the Baltimore Ravens.

Roethlisberger has missed the past three games with a sprained MCL and bone bruise. He practiced on a limited basis last week and was ruled out of the Arizona game on Friday.

The Steelers (4-2) have been able to weather the early-season injuries, but their depth will be tested in Kansas City on Sunday, especially if Roethlisberger cannot return to the lineup.

REPORT CARD VS. CARDINALS:

–PASSING OFFENSE: B. This likely would have been an F had Mike Vick remained at quarterback. Vick was 3-for-8 passing for 6 yards at halftime. But he left the game early in the third quarter with a hamstring injury, and Landry Jones came on to lead the Steelers to victory by going 8-for-12 for 168 yards and two touchdowns. Jones’ 88-yard touchdown pass to Martavis Bryant with 1:58 remaining put the game out of reach. Bryant finished with six receptions for 137 yards in his first game of the season.

–RUSH OFFENSE: B. RB Le’Veon Bell heated up in the second half and had 59 of his 88 yards in the final two quarters. Vick scrambled for 47 yards on five attempts, and the Steelers had 141 yards overall on 32 attempts for a 4.4-yard average.

–PASS DEFENSE: C. Arizona QB Carson Palmer threw for 421 yards, the fifth-most ever against a Steelers defense, but Lawrence Timmons and Mike Mitchell each had interceptions. Mitchell’s interception came with 2:20 remaining and halted a potential go-ahead scoring drive by the Cardinals. The Steelers allowed three passes of 30 yards or more, including a 44-yarder to Larry Fitzgerald and a 45-yarder to John Brown.

–RUSH DEFENSE: B-plus. Arizona RB Chris Johnson entered the game as the NFL’s second-leading rusher, but the Steelers held him to 40 yards on 14 carries. For the game, they allowed just 55 yards on 20 carries (a 2.8-yard average). After giving up 191 yards rushing to the Ravens, the Steelers have allowed just 107 rushing yards combined the past two games.

–SPECIAL TEAMS: A. Chris Boswell aced his first test at Heinz Field, going 4-for-4 on field goals with 48-, 49-, 51- and 28-yarders in his first home game after replacing Josh Scobee as the place kicker. Dri Archer had a career-long 35-yard kickoff return, and Jordan Berry averaged 47.6 yards on his five punts.

–COACHING: B. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley trusted QB Landry Jones even though Jones had never played in regular season NFL game. His best bit of coaching came late in the fourth quarter when he allowed Jones to throw from his own 12-yard line on second-and-8. His short pass to Martavis Bryant was turned into an 88-yard touchdown that sealed the game. Defensive coordinator Keith Butler has his young players playing with confidence. They delivered with three turnovers that helped turn the tide of the game.


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