Rookie Anthony Collins will start at left tackle and Nate Livings, signed off the practice squad this week, will line up at left guard when the Bengals face the division-leading Steelers. Injuries to starters Andrew Whitworth (ankle) and Levi Jones (back) and top backup Scott Kooistra (knee) will keep all three out of the lineup at Heinz Field.
Collins has had limited playing time this season, mostly as an extra lineman in short-yardage packages, while Livings has been on the practice squad for all but one week since the Bengals signed him as an undrafted free agent out of LSU in 2006. He was inactive for the team’s final game last season at Miami.
Pittsburgh is ranked No. 1 in the league in overall defense, pass defense and rush defense, and No. 2 in points allowed.
The short week has made it more difficult for players to recover from injuries. Jones was already fighting issues with his back and knees, while Whitworth and Kooistra suffered their injuries in last Sunday’s 13-13 tie with Philadelphia.
“Hey, everybody is banged up throughout the league,” said wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh after the Eagles game. “The only time you notice it is when guys don’t step up. If guys step up you don’t notice it. If a guy goes down, another guy gets an opportunity. Everybody wants to be known as a good player and for guys that haven’t been playing this is their chance.”
The Bengals will also be without wide receiver/punt returner Antonio Chatman (neck), defensive end Antwan Odom (shoulder) and safety Chinedum Ndukwe (foot) against the Steelers. Chatman was placed on injured reserve Wednesday after suffering a cervical injury against the Eagles.
Starting cornerback Johnathan Joseph (foot) is questionable for the game after not practicing the last two days. Rookie wide receiver Jerome Simpson (ankle) is doubtful for the game; however, fellow rookie Andre Caldwell could see some action for the first time in a month following a foot injury suffered against Pittsburgh the first time the teams played.
The Steelers, who are 7-3 and lead Baltimore by one game in the AFC North, will be without cornerbacks Bryant McFadden (forearm) and Deshea Townsend (hamstring) and offensive tackle Marvel Smith (back). The only other player listed on Pittsburgh’s injury report is tight end Matt Spaeth (wrist), who is questionable to play.