Sanders missed Pittsburgh's Week 9 loss to Baltimore, and with WRs Hines Ward (concussion-like symptoms) and Arnaz Battle (hamstring) both suffering in-game injuries, the Steelers were left with just Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Jerricho Cotchery at the split end and flanker positions.
Sanders originally injured his knee in Week 8 in a win over New England, and that, coupled with the death of his mother, led to his lack of participation in the 23-20 loss.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin indicated Ward is ok, and could play Sunday in a critical divisional game at Cincinnati. Battle's status is equally undetermined, but Tomlin did confirm he has a strained hamstring.
The game of Musical Linebackers could see yet another twist this week. Steelers OLB LaMarr Woodley also has a strained hamstring, and may not be available Sunday, which would be only his second missed game since he became the team's starting LOLB. Second-year LB Jason Worilds started for Woodley against Baltimore, but Tomlin indicated Lawrence Timmons may start for Woodley instead of Worilds, because LB James Farrior may return after missing the last two games with a calf injury.
Timmons replaced James Harrison from Weeks 5-8, after he broke an orbital bone in his eye. Harrison returned to the lineup Sunday, and possibly earned Defensive Player of the Week honors with his three sacks of QB Joe Flacco.
With all the personnel rotation, the Steelers played an excellent defensive game. The decision to play their defensive backs in man coverage on Baltimore's final drive has drawn some skepticism, however. One week prior to Sunday, the Steelers were praised for their decision to play New England in mostly man coverage.
It will be an interesting game plan Sunday against Cincinnati, considering the Bengals have less - albeit improving - talent at the WR and QB positions in comparison to Baltimore and New England. Since the Steelers have to go their sixth consecutive week of not starting both Woodley and Harrison, they will again have to figure out how to generate a pass rush.