Short-handed Steelers getting healthier

Short-handed Steelers getting healthier

PITTSBURGH (AP) Maurkice Pouncey is expected to return to the Steelers' lineup on Sunday, and Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman might do the same.

Pouncey, an All-Pro center, will practice Wednesday after missing the game in Cincinnati Sunday due to a right knee sprain. Mendenhall (Achilles) and Redman (ankle), who top the running back depth chart, ``have a chance'' of playing as well, Sunday, coach Mike Tomlin said.

The news is not all good though, as Pittsburgh (3-3) prepares to host the Washington Redskins (3-4). All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu and starting right tackle Marcus Gilbert have already been ruled out.

The Steelers moved into second place in the AFC North with a 24-17 win over the Bengals on Sunday.

The players most impacted by these returnees might be on special teams. Beleaguered and penalty-ridden, these units have become a chief concern for Tomlin. The coach even threatened benchings in the return game, where five flags were thrown in the Steelers' 10 return opportunities vs. Cincinnati.

``The multiple offenders, the egregious offenders, are going to be watching instead of playing as soon as we get some options,'' Tomlin said. ``Right now, with the injuries, we have minimal options.''

Safety Will Allen will be limited early this week after leaving the Bengals game due to a sprained ankle. Allen has started in place of Polamalu the past two weeks, and Tomlin said he anticipates him being able to play against Washington.

If some or all of the injured group - Pouncey, Mendenhall, Redman and reserve linebacker Chris Carter - return, it'll create a domino effect in which Tomlin has the freedom to pick and choose players to sit. Carter missed the Cincinnati game with a hamstring injury.

``We believe we have some dynamic return men, and penalties negate that effort,'' Tomlin said. ``What's going on in the return game from a penalty standpoint is disturbing. The first chance we get, we'll send a strong message in regards that we won't accept that type of performance.

``We feel like we can be explosive in that area provided we don't shoot ourselves in the foot, and I thought we did that in the football game (Sunday).''

Tomlin did not mention names when talking about possible benchings. DeMarcus Van Dyke, a cornerback claimed off waivers from the Oakland Raiders late in training camp, has been one of the players flagged multiple times.

Without Mendenhall and Redman, the Steelers still had their best running performance of the season Sunday. That could create another tough decision for Tomlin down the road. Jonathan Dwyer had 122 rushing yards against Cincinnati after being deactivated for each of the two previous games. Also, rookie Chris Rainey had the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter.

If all of Pittsburgh's running backs are healthy, who suits up against the Redskins? And how will the carries be split up?

``We're going to base those judgments on what it looks like as these guys prepare and get closer to game action during the week,'' Tomlin said. ``We're not going to hypothesize as to what that might be. We'll simply react to it and come up with the best formula that suits us for being successful this week.''

The Steelers improved their league rank in rushing yards from 31st to 26th with the 5.9 yards-per-carry performance in Cincinnati. This despite the fact that Pouncey and Gilbert were replaced by Doug Legursky at center and rookie Mike Adams at tackle, respectively.

``It was a strong run-game performance,'' Tomlin said. ``I thought we did a nice job up front getting hats on hats. I thought all the running backs did a nice job, of course highlighted by Jonathan Dwyer's efforts, but also Chris Rainey and Baron Batch and others I thought did a nice job.''

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Top-end talent still available for Redskins in Round 2 of NFL Draft, but red flags remain

Top-end talent still available for Redskins in Round 2 of NFL Draft, but red flags remain

The Redskins started the draft with a bang Thursday night by selecting Alabama DL Jonathan Allen with the 17th pick.

In many ways, getting the best player available on their board that also satisfies a serious need for Washington, the franchise amassed significant capital they can spend on Friday night.

[Related: Jonathan Allen plans to model his game after two All-Pro defenders]

So, what to do next? Let's look at some top options.

  • Joe Mixon - The Oklahoma running back made a deplorable decision a few years ago that was caught on tape. It will haunt his career, yet, at some point his talent is too much to pass up. The Redskins have done their homework on Mixon, and if the 6-foot-1, 226 lbs. gasher lasts to 49, the 'Skins will have a call to make.
  • Malik McDowell - A top 15 talent with questions, sliding to the 49th pick might be the exact motivation McDowell needs to be his best every snap. Pairing Allen with McDowell would be a significant investment in the defensive line for Bruce Allen.
  • Tyus Bowser - Want a freak athlete? This is your guy. A college hoops player at Houston, Bowser has impressive speed and torque off the edge. He can get to quarterbacks, and that's a skill every team needs.
  • Terrell Basham - His name isn't as well known since he played in the MAC but this kid has big-time game. Basham impressed scouts at the Senior Bowl and is an edge rushing talent. He won't make it to the third round.
  • Teez Tabor - Redskins director of college scouting Scott Campbell made clear that his organizational philosophy values game tape over combine numbers. In that case, Tabor is a first rounder. He's great on the field, has a fierce competitive streak and is a local kid. His Florida teammate Quincy Wilson could also be a fit. There will be a lot of good secondary players available for Washington at 49; Tabor might be the top of the list.
  • Zach Cunningham - A tackling machine in the SEC, this could be an easy pick. No question marks. Just good talent. The Redskins played it smart Thursday night, stayed patient and took the best player on their board. Same thing could land Cunningham Friday.
  • Dan Feeney - The Redskins could add depth to their offensive line and Feeney would be a good choice. A guard with good feet, he could learn the speed of the NFL in 2017 and  be the 'Skins starting left guard in 2018.

More Redskins: Jonathan Allen pick gives Redskins more freedom for the rest of the draft

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Jason Smith could miss Game 6, as Wizards frontcourt already lacks depth

Jason Smith could miss Game 6, as Wizards frontcourt already lacks depth

ATLANTA -- Jason Smith went through "very little" at a shootaround session Friday with the Wizards but his status for Game 6 with the Hawks still is going to be a game-time decisions, according to coach Scott Brooks. 

Smith strained his left calf in a Game 5 win vs. the Hawks but didn't return in the fourth quarter. He says he "hyperextended" it when hustling on a play.

If he's unable to play, Markieff Morris' foul trouble becomes an even bigger issue for the Wizards if he ends up off the floor because of it for the fourth game in a row. The Wizards are thin on bigs already with Ian Mahinmi having yet to make an appearance in the series with the same injury as Smith towards the end of the regular season.

Strains are tears but there are varying degrees which makes the recovery process different. 

Mahinmi, of course, remains out.

[RELATED: To close out, Wizards must avoid these mistakes in Game 6]