Steelers notebook: WR Brown sits out 2nd straight practice

Ralph N. Paulk
| Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016, 3:57 p.m.

Wide receiver Antonio Brown missed practice for the second day in a row Thursday as he continues to undergo the NFL's concussion protocol. The All-Pro receiver was injured in a wild-card win in Cincinnati on a helmet-to-helmet collision with Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict.

Brown's teammates seem optimistic he'll be ready to play when the Steelers (11-6) face Denver on Sunday at Sports Authority Field. Brown's status is likely to be determined during the final day of practice Friday.

If coach Mike Tomlin holds him out, it's unlikely he'll play. Tomlin rarely has listed a player as active on game day if he sits Friday's practice.

Brown had seven catches for 119 yards in an 18-16 win over the Bengals. He had 136 receptions for 1,834 receiving yards in the regular season, both single-season franchise records.

Brown's absence could have a ripple effect on the offense and special teams. The Steelers are expected to start Darrius Heyward-Bey, which means slot receiver Markus Wheaton will move to flanker along with Martavis Bryant.

Bryant told CBS Sports Radio's “Tiki and Tierney Show” he predicts Brown and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, slowed in practice with a shoulder injury, will play against the Broncos.

“Whether Antonio plays or not, I have to do all I can to win the game,” Bryant said. “I pray we have him out there with us, but if he can't go, we'll have to put on a show for him.”

Injury updates

Running back DeAngelo Williams (hamstring), safety Will Allen (not injury related) and tight end Matt Spaeth (not injury related) sat out practice.

Roethlisberger (right shoulder), linebacker Vince Williams (hamstring), safety Robert Golden (shoulder) and running back Will Johnson (hamstring) were limited. Linebackers Ryan Shazier and James Harrison and defensive end Cam Heyward were full participants after sitting out Wednesday.

Miller expects better ‘D'

Tight end Heath Miller expects the Denver secondary to be a little tougher to crack than it was in the second half of a 34-27 victory in Week 15, mostly because the Broncos will have starting safeties T.J. Ward and Darian Stewart back in the lineup.

“It certainly adds a dimension into what they're able to do defensively because they have a full deck,” Miller said. “Our primary goal is to protect the quarterback, and it's going to take the whole team to do that — running backs, tight end and offensive line. The quarterback has to get the ball out quick, and the receivers have to get open quicker.

Dupree eager to face QB

Bud Dupree can't wait to line up opposite Peyton Manning. While the rookie linebacker has tremendous respect for Manning, Dupree suggested the veteran isn't quite the quarterback who led Indianapolis and Denver to Super Bowl appearances.

“I'm glad I didn't face him in his real prime,” Dupree said. “He's still good, but back in the day he was the man's man. I have to go out there, play my assignments and not get hyped up because I'm playing against one of the greatest quarterbacks ever.

“I'll definitely be in awe. I grew up watching him, so just being on the field with him is great. He's smartest quarterback to play the game. There's no tricking him. You have to play him straight up, and we just have to beat our man.”

Seeking revenge

The Steelers put the wraps on Pro Bowl linebackers Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware in December.

They didn't record a tackle, and Miller had only a quarterback hurry as the Steelers stormed from behind.

“It's important to keep those guys off the passer,” Miller said. “But the rest of the front seven is pretty good, too.”

Ralph N. Paulk is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rpaulk@tribweb.com or via Twitter @RalphPaulk_Trib.

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