The Cincinnati Bengals have no doubt had a rough season, and it certainly didn’t get any easier when they were dealt a blow to their receiving corps several weeks back, with their top wide receiver—and the most talented player on the roster—A.J. Green suffered a hamstring injury that it was initially feared may end his season.
While the initial fears of a season-ending injury quickly faded, it has not been until this week that Green has been able to return to practice—but whether or not he is able to get himself right and ready to get back on the field in time for the Bengals’ game on Sunday hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers remains to be seen.
Thus far, through two days of practice, the All-Pro wide receiver has been listed as doing only limited work. It would be hard to imagine him playing on Sunday if he is unable to go full-on in practice today, especially coming off of a hamstring injury.
Green was off to a very impressive start of his season up until the injury, which occurred on the first play of his 10th game. through his first nine games, he accumulated 66 receptions for 964 yards and four touchdowns.
But his worst game of the season up to that point was actually his Week Two showing against the Steelers, during which he was being shadowed for most of the game by third-year cornerback Ross Cockrell, though mixed with a variety of coverages that provided a safety net.
In that game, Green was limited to just two receptions for 38 yards. The only other game that would compare for him on the season is the four receptions that he caught against Dallas for 50 yards. Four of his nine games saw him gain at least 120 yards through the air, however, including three of at least 169 yards.
It has taken the Bengals a while as an offense to adjust to simply the amount of turnover that they have undergone in the offseason, but trying to get back on track without Green has been a challenge. Still, they have been able to compile a short two-game winning streak, which they are taking into this game.
Of course, those were not the most formidable of opponents, taking down a struggling Eagles team in Cincinnati before trouncing the Browns by a score of 23-10. Their 55-24 edge over the course of the last two games has been notable.
But taking on the Steelers will be a very different task. The Bengals are likely not much better, nor worse, than they were at the start of the season, but Pittsburgh particularly on defense, has been improving, while their offense has undergone a refocusing effort.
Whether or not Green will even be able to play on Sunday is a legitimate question mark. Whether or not he is able to make a difference in the game poses an even bigger question.