The 8-2 Pittsburgh Steelers will host the 5-5 Green Bay Packers at Heinz Field Sunday night in a Week 12 out-of-conference matchup and ahead of that game kicking off, there are several key storylines worth pointing out.
Below are what I consider to be the top five storylines for both teams ahead of Sunday’s night game that will kickoff at 8:30 p.m. EST in Pittsburgh.
Pit of misery for Gilly, Gilly – The Steelers had a little bit of drama once again this past week thanks to it being announced that starting right tackle Marcus Gilbert has been suspended by the NFL for the team’s next four games for violating the league’s PED policy. Gilbert immediately apologized for his actions on social media and claimed that he unintentionally took a banned substance. Regardless of whether or not that’s true, the Steelers will now have to move forward with Chris Hubbard as their starting right tackle until Week 15. If there’s a bright side to all of this, it’s the fact that Hubbard has already started five games in place of Gilbert this season and has taken over for him in two others thanks to a hamstring injury. To add insult to injury, Gilbert, who will lose nearly $1 million of his 2017 base salary and possibly roughly three-quarters of a million of past bonuses paid to him because of his suspension, was also fined just over $9,000 this past week for his facemask penalty in the team’s win over the Tennessee Titans.
Cam finally can – As expected, the Steelers activated rookie cornerback Cameron Sutton to the team’s 53-man roster from the Reserve/Injured list this past week now that he’s fully recovered from his hamstring injury. The Steelers, by the way, didn’t need to waive a player in order to make room for Sutton on the roster due to Gilbert being suspended. While Sutton is finally on the team’s 53-man roster, there’s still no guarantee he will be allowed to contribute much the remainder of the regular season outside of maybe some limited action on special teams. Will he be allowed to return some punts at some point? We’ll see. In the meantime, however, it will be interesting to see if Sutton even dresses Sunday night against the Packers as head coach Mike Tomlin hinted this past Tuesday that he might not get a helmet for a while.
Oh my God, they almost seriously injured Kenny! – In the Packers Week 11 home Shutout loss to the Baltimore Ravens, their starting defensive tackle Kenny Clark had to leave the game in the fourth quarter with a seemingly serious ankle injury. While it was later determined that Clark’s ankle injury wasn’t a season-ender, it will still likely prevent him from playing Sunday night against the Steelers. Clark, who ended the week listed as doubtful on the Packers injury report, has played well this season against the run and leads the team in snaps played by a defensive lineman. Not having him Sunday night against the Steelers would be a huge loss for the Packers.
No good JuJu Sunday night – Steelers rookie wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster will miss his first game of the season Sunday night due to a hamstring injury. The USC product and this year’s second-round selection has really played well this season on his way to registering five of the team’s 16 receiving touchdowns. The blocking of the young wide receiver will also be missed Sunday night against the Packers. With Smith-Schuster out for this Week 12 game, the Steelers will hope that fellow wide receivers Martavis Bryant and Eli Rogers can combine to pick up the slack. The Steelers also signed running back Fitzgerald Toussaint of their practice squad Saturday morning and he’ll likely function as the team’s primary kickoff returner with Smith-Schuster sidelined Sunday night. Smith-Schuster, who turned 21 this past week, assured Steelers fans on social media recently that he won’t be sidelined for long.
Hundley the hunted – After the Packers lost starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers for the remainder of the season back in Week 6, backup Brett Hundley has only been able to lead his team to one victory in four attempts. During those nearly five full games that Hundley has played in, he’s been sacked 17 times and flushed from the pocket more times than he’d like to be. Hundley has thrown seven interceptions since taking over for Rodgers and three of them came in his last start against the Ravens. He’s only thrown for two touchdowns since becoming the Packers signal-caller on his way to registering a quarterback rating of 63.2. The Steelers defense enters Sunday night with 34 sacks on the season and thus it won’t be surprising to see them add several more to that total against the Packers.