Two teams will meet in Week 15 at Heinz Field, and each one enters the game heading in a completely different direction.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off of a thrilling, come-from-behind win over the Baltimore Ravens to secure their second straight AFC North title, while the New England Patriots left Miami smarting from a 27-20 loss to the Dolphins on Monday Night Football—a game in which they failed to convert a single third down for the first time since 1991.
When you talk about December football games, not only do they carry more significance for teams vying for a playoff berth, but injuries become more common, and more significant.
The Steelers have a few injuries of note, but none bigger than Joe Haden. In Mike Tomlin’s weekly Tuesday press conference, he talked about how Haden will practice for the first time since breaking his fibula against the Colts a few weeks ago. While this is exciting news for many fans, the team will proceed with caution as Tomlin spoke of “quality of practice” being the true measuring stick for his availability in the biggest game of the season, to date.
Other than Haden, some other injuries were touched on by the head coach. Vance McDonald, who missed the previous three weeks with an ankle injury, left the Week 14 game with a shoulder injury and wasn’t able to return. Coty Sensabaugh also left the game with a shoulder injury, and both of these players will be evaluated and will have the chance to show their availability throughout the practice week.
Tomlin did mention after the team’s Week-14 game that Tyler Matakevich injured his shoulder, forcing him to miss Sunday night’s game, but there was no update on his status heading into Week 15.
Any other listed injuries, like the one to Alejandro Villanueva after the Ravens’ game, were not mentioned in Tomlin’s Tuesday press conference. As always, the true indicator of a player sitting and watching versus playing and participating is how much, or how little, they practice during the week leading up to the game. This preparation starts on Wednesday, so be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest on the injury front and more.