When the Steelers confirmed this past weekend that receiver Antoonio Brown was going to be officially out of the Monday night game against the Chiefs, no one was surprised. Those ankle sprains are nothing to take lightly and as the week goes on they tend to become more problematic. The only real thing you can do is rest and rehab with the trainers. Mike Tomlin initially called it a “mild high ankle sprain” after the Steelers defeated the Giants last Sunday night, but everybody and their brother knew that AB was going to be doubtful at best.
There are reports flying around now that Brown could miss several games: NBC’s Pro Football Talk reported yesterday that a source with close knowledge of the situation said that Brown’s ankle is worse than initially thought, and he could miss a “few games” because of it.
Missing Brown for a game against the Chiefs is one thing but missing him for a game against hated division rival Baltimore next Sunday is a different story. Even if the Ravens defense is a shell of it’s former self, you want all hands on deck for big games like this whenever possible. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet though; there is a game to played tonight and the Steelers are still in “must win” mode, especially after the Ravens crushed the Raiders in their game on Sunday.
Pittsburgh made their roster move in the wake of Brown’s injury, by promoting rookie David Gilreath from the practice squad. He was able to work out with the team this week and should see some action in Todd Haley’s 4 WR sets. Whether or not he gets many looks remains to be seen, but the Chiefs would use nothing more than a dime back at best to cover Gilreath should he be on the field. Perhaps the young kid gets a chance to shine on the NFL’s biggest stage. Even if he doesn’t make a big impact in this game, veteran Jerricho Cotchery is more than capable of filling in for Brown; as is the rest of the receivers and tight ends on the roster.
Nobody will mistake the athleticism of Brown for Cotchery, but Jerricho has been there done that and will do a fine job in whatever role is asked of him.
The man who wears #89 for the Steelers spent 7 years with the Jets, where he caught 358 passes for 4,514 yds and 18 touchdown and has experience in punt returns as well. He was used mainly as a possession type receiver, similar to how the Steelers used Hines Ward in his hay day. He may not outrun many defensive backs but he has a knack for finding the soft spot in the zone and being able to make the tough catch in traffic. He is literally the younger Hines Ward that the Steelers needed on their roster again this season.
In the game against the New York Giants last Sunday night, he came up with 4 big catches for 50 yds at key points in the game, showing again why having a veteran receiver is so valuable. His name often is forgotten when you talk about the BIG 3 in Pittsburgh with Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders, and Brown but situations like this when a player is down, you’re thankful for a guy who can step in right away.
Certainly Mike Wallace will draw the majority of the double coverage, and the Chiefs top DB Brandon Flowers will follow #17 around all day long. Sanders will get alternating coverage by 3rd year DB Dexter McCluster who can also cover Cotchery. It’s a safe bet that Kansas City will mix up their coverage’s but Cotchery should be able to hook up with Ben Roethlisberger several times throughout the evening if Todd Haley chooses too.
Let us not forget about Heath Miller, who, well let’s face it no matter who covers Miller Time he will make an impact.
Miller already has 39 catches for 384 yds and 6 TD’s; 1 shy of his career high (7) set back in 2007. Ben will certainly look for Heath often, especially in the red zone if for no other reason than he is so consistent and no team in the league so far has proven they can stop him.
Even if Ben has 1 less high profile target on Monday night with Brown out of the game, there are plenty of options for Ben to choose from in the passing game, which should keep the Chiefs more than busy in their defensive backfield.