The Steelers face the offense-heavy Atlanta Falcons in Week 15, sitting at the fifth seed in the AFC playoff picture and second place in the division.
It wasn't a good start to the practice week for the defense.
The Steelers were without cornerbacks Ike Taylor (shoulder), William Gay (quad) and outside linebacker James Harrison (knee) in practice Wednesday, their first practice in preparation for their last road game of the 2014 regular season. Harrison missed the team's 42-21 win over the Bengals in Week 14 with the same knee injury.
Taylor said he removed himself from the game after sustaining shoulder and knee injuries during the win. Gay was a bright spot in an otherwise down game for the Steelers' secondary, and his loss against Atlanta would present a considerable problem. If neither Taylor nor Gay can go - the team's starting cornerbacks when both have been healthy this season - Pittsburgh would likely start Brice McCain and Antwon Blake, with deep reserve B.W. Webb likely seeing action for the first time this year outside of special teams.
McCain may get the nod over Taylor anyway, as the longtime Steelers veteran hasn't played well in his two games back after missing eight games with a broken forearm.
Harrison's injury coincided with the return of Jarvis Jones who, like Taylor, missed the previous eight games with injury. Arthur Moats filled-in on the base defense while Jones played in sub-packages on Sunday. Jones will likely return to playing in base situations this week, but Moats was one of the defense's most outstanding players and it'll be hard to keep him off of the field against the pass-happy Falcons.
The Steelers are a half-game behind Cincinnati in the AFC North race, and currently enjoy a division-record tiebreaker over the Ravens for second place. Cleveland trails them by one game.