By Daniel Benjamin
The Pittsburgh Steelers will enter their AFC divisional round playoff game with a full squad according to head coach Mike Tomlin.
The Steelers (11-3) entered the week with a couple of injury concerns, but that number quickly grew with corner Artie Burns and defensive end Stephon Tuitt suffering injuries during Wednesday’s practice. Javon Hargrave also suffered an injury this week. However, all three players were full practice participants on Friday.
Burns and Tuitt missed Thursday’s practice after being limited on Wednesday. Burns hyperextended his right knee during Wednesday’s practice, but always planned on playing against the Jaguars (11- 6).
“Once I just make it through the week as healthy as I can and be prepared for Sunday,” Burns told Penn-Live.
Burns underwent an MRI on Wednesday that revealed no major damage. It was a non-contact injury.
Burns, rated as the 51st corner by Pro Football Focus this year, led the team with 13 passes defensed to go along with one interception. The 2016 first round selection also registered 54 tackles, including 47 solos this year. He has yet to miss a game in his career.
Tuitt suffered an elbow injury on Wednesday, but the player said the injury was minor in nature and had always expected to play on Sunday. The 24-year-old end compiled 25 tackles and three sacks to go along with six tackles for losses in 12 games this season. He is rated as PFF’s 15th best interior defensive lineman in the league.
Hargrave was a new addition to the team’s injury report on Thursday after missing practice with a back injury. The extent of the second-year nose tackle injury was never disclosed.
If Hagrave’s back flares up and he is unable to go, it would be a huge setback for the Steelers as his likely matchup against Jacksonville’s center Brandon Linder is one of the key battles to watch.
Hargrave, PFF’s 48th rated interior lineman, had his best game of the season against the Jaguars (Week 5), compiling 10 tackles in the game. For the season, he registered 31 tackles along with two sacks in 16 games, including 12 starts.
Reserve defensive linemen Tyson Alualu or LT Walton would likely replace Hargrave in the lineup if something unexpectedly prevents him from playing. Alualu, who made five starts this year, has had one of the best seasons of his career in his inaugural season with the Steelers. He registered 39 tackles and a career-high 4 sacks. His most productive game of the season came in Week 17 against Cleveland when he racked up eight tackles and two sacks.
Antonio Brown misses practice on Friday
Brown returned to practice for the first time since injuring his calf in the Steelers’ Week 15 game against the Patriots. Brown was a full practice participant on Wednesday and Thursday, but Tomlin sent the star receiver home on Friday due to an illness. Tomlin did tell reporters, as he was divulging Brown’s illness, that Brown had “looked really good in practice.” He is officially listed as questionable for the game, although he is expected to play.
Brown torched Jacksonville the last time the teams faced each other in Week 5, hauling in 10 passes on 19 targets for 159 yards. He had four receptions for 10-plus yards, including a long of 49-yards.
Jacksonville Jaguars injury report
Jacksonville also appears to be relatively healthy. The Jaguars have listed just two players, linebacker Blair Brown and wide receiver Jaydon Mickens, on the injury report. Both players were limited in practice on Friday and are officially listed as questionable.
That is really good news for the Jags, who had several key players dealing with injuries during the week. The most prominent players were starters on the defensive side of the ball: CB Jalen Ramsey, LB Paul Posluszny, LB Telvin Smith, DT Abry Jones and reserve corner Aaron Colvin.
Brown is a reserve linebacker who has appeared in 13 regular season contests, making two starts. He racked up 15 tackles and a half sack in those games. Brown was credited with five stops against Buffalo in the Wild Card game last week.
Mickens has yet to play this season.
Steelers full injury report
WR Antonio Brown, Calf/Illness. Questionable.