Timothy T. Ludwig-US PRESSWIRE
Twenty-four hours after assuring the world that he would be able to shadow the Bengals best receiver, the Steelers best available cornerback shadowed only the sidelines during practice.
Lewis suffered a hip flexor against the San Diego Chargers in week 14, and re-aggravated it against the Dallas Cowboys in week 15. After being limited in practice yesterday, Lewis claimed he would be healthy by gametime. He promised to "shadow" A.J. Green "no matter what". That was Wednesday. On Thursday, he was unable to practice at all.
Lewis reportedly re-aggravated the hip injury again in Wednesday's practice. His absence attaches giant question marks to his spot on the depth chart, and his role in the gameplan. Despite his missing practice, Lewis still expects to play on Sunday.
If Lewis is unable to go, the task of covering A.J. Green will fall to second year cornerback Cortez Allen. Allen, who missed the game versus the Cowboys, practiced fully for the second consecutive day with no setbacks related to the groin and hip issues that held him out of the prior contest. Allen has a green light for Sunday.
While the return of Allen brings a little bit of hope to a struggling, young secondary, the Steelers will still need big improvements from Josh Victorian, Curtis Brown, and Robert Golden. If Lewis is unable to participate, newly signed Justin King may also be forced into action, as the team awaits the return of its best corner, Ike Taylor. Taylor has begun moving without the boot, but is not practicing this week and is officially ruled out of the contest already.
The Steelers did have some good new for Thursday. Players that missed practice on Wednesday were able to return to practice on Thursday in full capacity, including: Emmanuel Sanders, Cameron Heyward, and Al Woods. Sanders has been dealing with a shoulder sprain and bruised ribs. Woods was dealing with the mysterious illness plaguing the Southside Facility, and Heyward missed Wednesday's practice for a non-injury related reason. All participated today, and are expected to play on Sunday.
Troy Polamalu sat out Thursday's practice for precautionary maintenance, but Mike Adams did participate if only in limited action. While Adams return to practice is a positive sign, he is not expected to be ready by Sunday. As he misses yet another game, rookie Kelvin Beachum will start his fourth game at right tackle beside fellow rookie, David DeCastro.
Outside of the glaring uncertainties in the secondary, the Steelers look to be as healthy as they've been all year as they welcome the Bengals to Heinz Field to decide the playoff pecking order.