Starks' injury worse than anticipated
With Max Starks' neck injury potentially worse than the starting left tackle anticipated, the Steelers are looking at a situation similar to one they have with defensive end Aaron Smith.
As with Smith, who is recovering from a partially torn triceps, the Steelers may take a wait-and-see approach with Starks.
Starks, who left the Bengals game with a stinger but later returned, may be out for the rest of the regular season. But the seventh-year veteran could potentially return for the playoffs — assuming his neck responds favorably to rest and treatment.
The Steelers are keeping Smith on the 53-man roster with the hope that he returns in mid- to late-December.
They could also do the same with Starks though injuries are the X-factor in the case of both players.
The loss of Starks leaves the Steelers with eight healthy offensive linemen — with health being a relative term when it comes to the most beat-up unit on the team.
They'll probably dress all eight Sunday night against the Patriots since they were barely able to get by with seven offensive linemen against the Bengals.
And that is assuming starting left guard Chris Kemoeatu (sprained knee) is cleared to play in the 8:20 p.m. game.
If injuries, however, continue to ravage an offensive line that has played well in spite of them, the Steelers won't have a choice but to place Stark on injured reserve and sign a healthy lineman to their 53-man roster.
It is the same situation the Steelers are in with Smith.
That is why Smith recently said that his return this season is as contingent on the health of his fellow defensive linemen as it is on how quickly he recovers from the triceps injury.
Coach Mike Tomlin, on outside linebacker James Harrison, whose style of play has drawn increased scrutiny in recent weeks:
"He's a great football player. He's a detailed guy and a diligent worker. Much has been said about him of late — that's not the James we know. He makes timely plays for us. We'd like him to be measured on plays like (the pass breakup at the end of the Bengals game) rather than unfortunate penalties."
Center Maurkice Pouncey, on surprises in the league during the first half of his rookie season:
"I thought it would be a lot harder than it is. My brother (Mike) always says, 'You're playing in the league now,' but it's kind of like the same (as it's always been) but we do it every day. I love it. I called my brother (recently) and said, 'Hey, going in to (work) today. You might have to go to class.'"
Free safety Ryan Clark, on the Bengals' rally:
"If you're going to be dominant as a defense and as a team, you have to finish games. We didn't do that last year, and we don't want the same types of problems to plague us."
4: Teams that have more sacks than the Steelers (24) through eight games.
12/2: Touchdown/Interception ratio of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in the five full games he has played against the Steelers, dating back to 2001.
229.3: Ben Roethlisberger's average passing yards in four games this season.
308.6: Average passing yards in the five full games Brady has played against the Steelers.
363: Career passing yards, including the postseason, by Steelers wide receiver Antwaan Randle El, who has completed 22 of 29 passes and thrown for six touchdowns.
3 to watch
Jerod Mayo, Patriots LB: Leads the NFL in tackles (96) and is the heart and soul of a no-name defense.
Brandon Tate, Patriots WR: Fourth in the NFL in kickoff returns with a 28.9 yard average and has returned two for touchdowns.
LaMarr Woodley, Steelers LB: Coming off a two-sack game in Cincinnati, and putting pressure on Patriots QB Tom Brady will be paramount for the Steelers.
Q&A with Chris Kemoeatu
Word is that you are the most low-maintenance guy among the offensive linemen. Is that true?
"I'm pretty easygoing, pretty comfortable wherever I'm at, chilled, laid back."
What about on the field?
"You can't be. It's obviously a competitive sport, a physical sport, so I can't be like that on the field. As far as hanging out with the guys, I'm a real easy guy. Obviously, I've got my (sleeping) mat (in front of the locker) and my towel is my blanket. I'm all about being comfortable if I'm not working."
What was it like growing up with an older brother, Redskins defensive tackle Ma'ake Kemoeatu, who also plays in the NFL?
"We haven't played each other in the pros yet, but it's definitely been a great ride as far as my brother being in the league and making it easier for me. I always had somebody to look up to as a role model and somebody I can always go to. He kind of gave me heads up about stuff coming into the NFL."
Is there a movie you can watch any time?
"I've got a couple: Braveheart, Gladiator, I can watch any time. All the Die Hards."
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