As anyone who watched the last time the Pittsburgh Steelers met the Cincinnati Bengals knows, wide receiver A.J. Green had a big day against the defense going 11/224/1. Fortunately, it didn’t translate into a Bengals win, as the Steelers defense made plays when needed, with two fumble recoveries and three sacks, and the offense did their part to stay ahead, putting up twice as many points as Cincinnati did.
Cornerback Ike Taylor is likely to be watching from the sidelines Sunday night, which leaves the secondary more vulnerable to Green again (Taylor was injured in the last matchup and eventually came out of the game). Which leaves a big question: can Green be a factor in this game, or will he just be a decoy on the field?
When the Bengals played the Denver Broncos this past Monday night, Green sustained a bruised biceps muscle in his right arm in the first quarter. For the remainder of the game, his arm dangled at his side, and he did not record a catch after that even though he did see some playing time. He reportedly experienced numbness and could not raise his arm after the injury, which suggests significant inflammation to a nerve — most likely, the musculocutaneous nerve, which passes between the biceps muscle and the brachialis.
During the week, Green was reportedly treated with ultrasound to his arm. Ultrasound provides vibration to the tissues that the patient usually cannot feel. This therapy is believed to aid in healing by recruiting mast cells and increasing collagen formation. It also results in increased blood flow, which can worsen swelling early after the injury and explains why it probably wasn’t used for Green until later in the week.
According to all of the comments that Green has made to the media, his arm is feeling well and he is able to catch the ball…but what else would he say before the unofficial AFC North title game? If the bruising is still severe enough that he is considering wearing padding, his arm may still be swollen and tender, and therefore compromised to the point where he will not be a big play threat Sunday night.
No doubt Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau will challenge his players to be physical with Green early in the game and force him to test his arm. We all know that without Green, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton will lose his best weapon and struggle in the passing game. And there is a very good chance that Green’s arm will not be ready for a punishing AFC North game in Pittsburgh.