Key Steelers Defender Ruled ‘Out’ vs. Cowboys

Tyson Alualu

Joe Sargent/Getty Images Tyson Alualu of the Pittsburgh Steelers reacts after a sack on December 31, 2017.

On Friday the Pittsburgh Steelers (7-0) wrapped up on-field preparations for Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys (2-6). For the third straight day defensive lineman Tyson Alualu did not practice because of the MCL sprain he suffered against the Baltimore Ravens, and the Steelers have already ruled him ‘out’ for the Cowboys game.

Meanwhile, slot cornerback Mike Hilton (shoulder) was a limited participant in practice on Friday and has been labeled as doubtful for Sunday, as has offensive lineman Stefen Wisniewski (pectoral), who was also limited on Friday.

The only other offensive player whose participation against the Cowboys is in doubt is tight end Vance McDonald, who missed practice on Friday with an unspecified illness and has been listed as questionable.

DL Isaiah Buggs Practiced Friday

In a decidedly positive injury development, defensive lineman Isaiah Buggs returned to practice on Friday after being held out on Thursday. Defensive tackle remains an area of concern heading into the Cowboys game, but much less so if Buggs is able to play.

The Steelers might also choose to utilize first-year DT Henry Mondeaux (Oregon), who was recently elevated from the practice squad, as well as rookie seventh-round pick Carlos Davis (who has yet to be active for a game).

Undrafted 6-foot-9 rookie Calvin Taylor (Kentucky), is also a potential option, though he would need to be elevated from the practice squad.

Meanwhile, Chris Wormley remains on injured reserve with a knee injury. It’s possible that the team will soon add to its defensive line depth by signing 2019 Seattle Seahawks draft pick Demarcus Christmas, who the Steelers had in for a visit on Tuesday. Christmas projects as a run-stuffing specialist with limited pass rush skills.

Dallas Cowboys Injury Update

As for the Cowboys’ injury situation, No. 1 running back Ezekiel Elliott has been slowed in practice this week thanks to a hamstring injury suffered in Sunday’s 23-9 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Yet according to Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy, Elliott is expected to play against the Steelers, saying, “We’ll take tomorrow and warm him up Sunday just to make sure that he’s full go,” said McCarthy on Friday.

If Elliott is unable to play or limited in Sunday’s game, second-year player Tony Pollard will likely get the lion’s share of the carries. Pollard has 38 carries for 149 yards (3.9 yards per carry) and one touchdown thus far this season.

Another Dallas player whose status remains in doubt is defensive end Aldon Smith, who has been limited in practice this week a knee injury.

Last but not least, the Cowboys will go with a new punter this weekend. Earlier this week the team announced that Chris Jones needs core muscle surgery. To replace Jones the Cowboys plan to elevate punter Hunter Niswander from the practice squad. Niswander was a three-year starter at Northwestern and punted for the XFL’s DC Defenders this past spring, where he averaged 44.6 yards per punt.

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