Like many teams around this time of year—most teams, likely—the Green Bay Packers have been shuttling players on and off the injury report. It’s akin to a leaky boat: you plug one hole only to find another pop up.
Their defense has been the leaky boat in recent weeks. After seeing defensive backs Morgan Burnett and rookie Kevin King miss time, including Sunday’s game against the Ravens, the Packers wound up losing two starters over the course of the game, first with veteran Clay Matthews going down, and then second-year nose tackle Kenny Clark.
While neither of the latter two players participated in practice yesterday, the team did see Burnett and King return, so it’s possible that they get a couple of key players back for this game while losing two others.
I would imagine that the Pittsburgh Steelers could relate. When they finally got virtually their entire 53-man roster healthy following the bye week, they saw a couple of players in the secondary go down. It is currently unclear whether or not Mike Mitchell will play on Sunday, while Joe Haden definitely will not.
The Packers are fortunate to have avoided a more serious injury for Clark, a former first-round pick, who leads their defensive line in tackles. What initially was believed to be a knee injury has since been regarded as an ankle injury. It seems fairly likely he will miss this game, but it could have been much worse.
As for Matthews, he said that he believes his coach will let him take it down to the wire. Regardless of whether or not he is able to practice on even a limited basis today, he expects his active status to be a game-time decision if necessary. If he doesn’t play, veteran Ahmad Brooks and rookie Vince Biegel, as well as Kyler Fackrell, will see increased roles.
Even if Green Bay is aided by a boost of health in the secondary, its offset in the front seven in light of the absences of starters like Matthews and Clark would still be a boon for a Steelers offense that has struggled to run the ball efficiently. If they are able to do that, they can build a more balanced attack from it.
At least based on most of the comments that we see around these parts, I think a good number of people do understand that a win is no guarantee on Sunday. While they should on paper clearly be able to beat this Packers team, they do have to go out there and execute.
Or course, the Packers’ biggest injury is to quarterback Aaron Rodgers, whose absence completely reshaped the balance of this game when the schedule was first made, and perhaps the NFC playoff picture as well. They have gone 1-4 since he was injured after starting the season 4-1.