When the Pittsburgh Steelers (8-0) and Cincinnati Bengals (2-5-1) meet on Sunday, each team will be down an assistant coach. The Steelers will be without assistant offensive line coach Adrian Klemm (unspecified illness), while Cincinnati will be minus wide receivers coach Bill Bicknell because of “COVID-related reasons.” According to the Bengals, assistant wide receivers coach Troy Walters will assume Bicknell’s responsibilities for the game.
Bengals Cornerback Injuries
But the biggest challenge facing the Bengals on Sunday may be dealing with Pittsburgh’s diversified passing attack, as Cincinnati is expected to be shorthanded at cornerback. Starting CB LeShaun Sims (concussion) and his backup, Darius Phillips (groin), have already been ruled ‘out’ of the game. Meanwhile, practice squad cornerbacks Winston Rose and Brian Allen—the latter a former Steelers draft pick (5th round, 2017)—are on the COVID-19 list.
That leaves Cincinnati with starter William Jackson III and slot cornerback Mackensie Alexander, while third-year backup Tony Brown is likely to be pressed into starting duty—which would be his fourth NFL start and first for the Bengals.
The CB shortage also makes it likely that the Bengals will call up Jalen Davis from the practice squad. Davis was signed by Cincinnati last month and has five games worth of NFL experience.
It’s also conceivable that the Bengals could adopt a three-safety look, in which case they might utilize Shawn Williams off the bench. Safety Brandon Wilson also has experience playing cornerback, though it came in college at the University of Houston.
All in all, it could be a challenging day for the Bengals secondary, considering that the Steelers boast four capable wide receivers in JuJu Smith-Schuster (45 catches), Diontae Johnson (31), Chase Claypool (31) and James Washington (18), not to mention tight end Eric Ebron, who has 29 catches thus far in 2020.
Offensive Tackle Another Worry for Bengals
The other position group of concern from a Bengals perspective is offensive tackle. Right tackle Bobby Hart (knee) is out and his backup—former Steelers lineman Fred Johnson—is on the COVID-19 list. Plus, left tackle Jonah Williams was limited in practice every day this week and is listed as questionable.
Whoever plays tackle for the Bengals will have to contend with Steelers outside linebackers T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree. Watt leads the NFL with 34 quarterback pressures while Dupree is tied for fifth with 22.
Meanwhile, the Bengals are expected to be without running back Joe Mixon (knee) for the third game in a row. Veteran defensive tackle Geno Atkins has also been ruled out (for personal reasons).
Steelers Injury-Illness Update
For their part, the Steelers have four players who are listed as questionable for Sunday’s game, including slot cornerback Mike Hilton (shoulder) and backup defensive tackle Isaiah Buggs (ankle).
Rookie offensive guard Kevin Dotson and rookie running back Anthony McFarland Jr. are also questionable due to unspecified illnesses.
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