Just 24 hours ago, it looked as though the Pittsburgh Steelers would have both James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley in the lineup for their big Week 9 matchup with the division rival Baltimore Ravens.
But now, it appears as though both cogs in the best outside linebacker duo in football will be on the sideline Sunday at Heinz Field.
Last night, we learned that Harrison would probably miss his fifth straight game as his fractured orbital bone continues to recover. In the four games that Harrison has missed, the Steelers are somehow 4-0, but that probably wouldn’t be the case if not for Woodley, who probably deserves defensive player of the month votes after 7.5 sacks, a pick and 20 tackles in Harrison’s stead.
But today, we’re learning that the hamstring injury Woodley suffered Sunday against the Patriots might be more serious than originally believed. Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette quotes a team source who says the injury is “not good” and could keep Woodley out a while.
Unlike Harrison, Woodley isn’t willing to rule himself out just yet. Here’s a video he posted on Twitter earlier today:
But Dulac says “Woodley will not play against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday at Heinz Field and will likely miss the following game against the Cincinnati Bengals, meaning he probably won’t return until after the Nov. 20 bye week.”
If that’s the case, then the Steelers will be in serious trouble against a Ravens team that always plays them tough, home or away. ESPN.com’s Jamison Hensley points out that Harrison and Woodley have combined for more than half of Pittsburgh’s sacks since 2008. Keep in mind that James Farrior is already out for the Steelers, leaving them with only one opening-day starter in the linebacking corps.
On Sunday, Brett Keisel will be the only player in the lineup with more than one sack this season. Keisel has three. Beyond that, they’ll be forced to start rookie Chris Carter, with second-year man Stevenson Sylvester playing a prominent role. Those guys have zero career sacks and 17 career tackles between them.
The Steelers could really use 2010 second-round pick Jason Worilds to chip in at outside linebacker, but he too might be out with a hamstring injury. With Casey Hampton still not 100 percent and Aaron Smith gone for the year, you have to wonder if the defense is simply too depleted to stop Joe Flacco, Ray Rice and Anquan Boldin.
For those wondering, Pittsburgh is currently a three-point favorite at home for Sunday night’s huge matchup. The information above leads me to believe that line will change drastically in the coming days.