After practice on Friday the Pittsburgh Steelers placed linebacker Ulysees Gilbert III on injured reserve, shortly after ruling him out of Sunday afternoon’s game against the Indianapolis Colts. It’s the second time Gilbert has been placed on IR this season. This time it’s an ankle injury; he was also on the injured reserve list between November 4th and December 12th with a back injury. Gilbert played in just four games this season after missing half of the 2019 campaign with a fractured vertebra in his back.
Inside linebacker Vince Williams takes Gilbert’s place on the 53-man roster. Williams was activated off the Reserve/COVID-19 list two days ago, having missed the last two games after apparently struggling with symptoms of the virus. Before testing positive for COVID-19, Williams started the first 12 games of the 2020 season. He has 63 tackles this year (41 solo), as well as three sacks, 14 tackles for loss and two fumble recoveries.
For his part, outside linebacker T.J. Watt believes Williams’ return is going to be a difference-maker on defense: “He beams confidence,” Watt told Steelers.com. “He loves football. He absolutely loves this game. He enjoys being around the guys in the locker room and we love his company as well…. It’s awesome to have him back this week and I am excited to play alongside him again.”
4 Steelers Questionable for Sunday
Meanwhile, two other Steelers linebackers—Marcus Allen (stinger) and Ola Adeniyi (shoulder)—are questionable for the game against the Colts. Allen missed all three of the team’s practices this week, while Adeniyi was a limited participant on Friday after missing the last two days.
Rookie running back Anthony McFarland Jr. has also been labeled questionable after missing practice on Christmas Day due to illness.
Finally, placekicker Chris Boswell, who was added to the injury report on Thursday with a groin injury, didn’t practice on Friday and is questionable. Typically, players who don’t practice on Friday don’t play on Sunday, so one can expect practice squad kicker Matthew Wright to be elevated before the game, much like three weeks ago when he subbed in for Boswell vs. Washington. On that day, (his NFL regular-season debut) Wright was 2-for-2 on extra-point attempts and also converted a 37-yard field goal.
RB James Conner Expected to Return
In terms of the good news from Friday’s injury report, No. 1 running back James Conner was a full participant in practice, so he seems set to return from the quad injury that kept him out of last week’s loss to the Cincinnati Bengals and hampered him against the Buffalo Bills, against whom he rushed for only 18 yards on ten carries.
Meanwhile, tight end Eric Ebron was a full participant for second day in a row and defensive end Stephon Tuitt practiced for the first time this week, so both should be good to go vs. Indianapolis.
With a victory over the Colts—or a Browns loss against the New York Jets—the Steelers clinch the AFC North title.
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