As the Pittsburgh Steelers head to Massachusetts this weekend to take on the New England Patriots, they will be in desperate need of a victory. At 2-5, the Steelers are three games behind the Bengals for the AFC North lead and no fewer than six teams stand between them and the conference’s final wild card spot.
If the situation this Sunday wasn’t already challenging enough with the AFC East-leading Patriots (6-2) on the other side of the field, the Steelers will be waiting until close to game time to figure out what their starting offensive line will look like.
As detailed by coach Mike Tomlin at Tuesday’s press conference on the South Side, guards David DeCastro, Ramon Foster and Guy Whimper, all of whom left last Sunday’s loss in Oakland with injuries, are uncertain to play in New England. At least in part due to the constant line shuffling, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was sacked five times and hurried on several other occasions by the Raiders.
Tomlin told the assembled media his preliminary plan will be to keep the versatile Kelvin Beachum at left tackle and play Whimper at guard if DeCastro can’t heal his ankle ailment in time for Sunday. If Whimper (hyperextended knee) can’t play against the Patriots, fourth-year pro Cody Wallace could get a look in DeCastro’s usual spot.
Foster, who suffered a concussion at Oakland, has been cleared for practice, but head injuries can be nebulous and lingering. He seems likely to suit up Sunday, even though he will be subject to further testing as the week goes along.
At any rate, the Steelers’ offensive line will be decidedly less than full strength as they try to stay within screaming distance of the AFC playoff field with nine games to go. Winnable home matchups against Buffalo and Detroit await after their trip to New England, but if the Steelers enter that stretch with a 2-6 record, it probably won’t matter what they do in the season’s second half.