Steelers' notebook: Worilds, Sanders questionable against Browns
The Steelers will be without linebacker Terence Garvin when they face AFC North rival Cleveland in their regular-season finale at Heinz Field on Sunday.
Garvin sustained a knee injury after stepping in last week when the Steelers were thin at linebacker with the loss of LaMarr Woodley (season-ending calf injury), Jarvis Jones (illness) and Jason Worilds, who left early in the second half at Green Bay with a abdominal injury. Garvin's absence will again test the Steelers' depth at linebacker, which includes Chris Carter and Stevenson Sylvester.
Worilds and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (knee) practiced Friday, but are questionable.
“Right now it's 50-50, and hopefully my knee won't swell up,” Sanders said. “If it doesn't, I'll be in there. You never know how this thing is going to react, but whether or not we make the playoffs, I'd like to go out with a bang.”
Jones, who expects to be back in the starting lineup against the Browns, is one of six players listed as probable. The others are strong safety Troy Polamalu (not injury related), tight end Heath Miller (not injury related), guard David DeCastro (back), defensive end Brett Keisel and wide receiver Markus Wheaton — all of whom were full participants in practice.
• According to a report on ESPN.com , the NFL on Friday night released a statement acknowledging that the officiating crew in the Steelers' 38-31 victory Sunday over the Packers started the game clock early on the last play. “Due to a miscommunication between members of the officiating crew, the game clock was started prematurely on the final play of the game,” the report quotes a statement from a league spokesman as saying. A false start penalty on the Packers led to a 10-second runoff down to 10 seconds remaining in the game. The Packers were able to get off just one play, an incomplete pass in the end zone.
• Tight end Matt Spaeth was fined $7,875 by the NFL for an unnecessary roughness penalty that occurred during the 38-31 victory in Green Bay on Sunday. Spaeth was flagged for a hit on Packers linebacker Jamari Lattimore that came at the end of A.J. Hawk's return of a Ben Roethlisberger-thrown interception. As Antonio Brown tackled Hawk, Spaeth came in from behind Lattimore and drove him into the Packers' bench area. An angry Lattimore jumped up and went at Spaeth after the play. No Packers players were fined.
• Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon, who leads the NFL with 1,564 receiving yards, feasted on the Steelers' secondary last month. He had 14 catches for a then-franchise record 237 yards and a touchdown. Still, cornerback Ike Taylor said the Steelers aren't likely to defend Gordon differently. Chicago used the Pittsburgh game film to devise a zone coverage scheme that shut out Gordon in the first half, but he finished with 3 catches for 67 yards and a touchdown. “There are games like that, but they didn't stop him the entire game,” Taylor said. “The way we play defense, we'll play a man over him.” Added defensive end Cam Heyward: “The first key will be stopping their run game, which is good by committee. We can't let up, which is what happened in the last game (in Cleveland) that made us a susceptible to Gordon making some big plays.”
• The Steelers' playoff chances hinge on defeating Cleveland, but Keisel will be checking out the scoreboard at Heinz Field. “The bottom line for us to go anywhere is we have to win the game. It's difficult, but we understand what's at stake. The odds were against us last week, but things fell into place. It could happen again. We'll be focused on the game, but we'll be peeping (on the scoreboard) to see what's going on.”
• Guard Ramon Foster said even though the Steelers' playoff odds aren't good, he's thrilled the Steelers are in a position to finish 8-8 after starting 0-4. “The first goal is to get to .500 for the first time this season,” Foster said “The football gods worked overtime last week for us. It's the holiday season, so we'll need them to work time-and-a-half on Sunday.”
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