Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE ; Steelers Hurting at Wide Receiver as Ravens Loom

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE ; Steelers Hurting at Wide Receiver as Ravens Loom

Article excerpt

PITTSBURGH - The previous time Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown were in uniform together for the Steelers at Heinz Field against the Ravens, Roethlisberger threw for 340 yards and six touchdowns in a 43-23 romp midway through the 2014 season. It's still Pittsburgh's only victory in the past seven meetings between the two teams that will meet for the de facto AFC North title game on Christmas night, a rare blowout in a series dominated by taut defensive struggles usually decided by a kicker.

Bell missed Baltimore's win in the wild-card round later that season with a knee injury. Roethlisberger sat out an overtime setback in 2015 with a knee issue.

Their knees are fine this time around. The issue might be finding some help, particularly for Brown. Pittsburgh's wide receiver group is hurting.

Badly.

Sammie Coates is still dealing with two broken fingers on his left hand and was limited in practice on Thursday with a hamstring issue.

Tight end Ladarius Green is likely out after being put in the concussion protocol following a helmet-to-helmet hit in the fourth quarter last Sunday in Cincinnati. Darrius Heyward-Bey is nearing his return from a foot injury, but still hasn't caught a pass in two months.

Asked if he can line up as a receiver and go deep to take some of the pressure off Brown, Bell laughed and said "we'll see."

"I never turn down a go route," said Bell, who is second on the team with 72 receptions. "If they give me a go route, I'm going to try and run a go route every time they ask me.

It might be worth a shot.

While the Steelers (9-5) have ripped off five straight wins thanks in large part to an offense that's become increasingly dependent on Bell's constantly churning legs, Green's emergence as a deep threat to complement Brown has certainly helped.

Green is averaging a healthy 16.9 yards per catch since coming off the physically unable to perform list against Dallas last month, but who knows how long he might be out after getting drilled while finishing off a 28-yard reception in the fourth quarter against the Bengals.

The options appear to be dwindling. Eli Rogers is primarily a possession receiver and Cobi Hamilton a practice squad graduate who only has one reception for 21 yards on the season. …

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