PITTSBURGH — Three starters are expected to be out of the lineup when the Pittsburgh Steelers face the NFC North-leading Detroit Lions Sunday: linebacker LaMarr Woodley, defensive end Brett Keisel and guard Ramon Foster.
They all missed Friday’s practice, Foster with an ankle injury, Woodley with a calf problem and Keisel with a foot injury. None practiced this week.
On the injury report Friday, the Steelers listed Woodley as doubtful, while Foster and Keisel were questionable.
Foster and Keisel were unavailable for comment Friday, but Woodley answered questions after practice.
“I feel pretty good, so I think I’ll be set to go on Sunday,” Woodley said with a grin on his face that could be compared to a cat staring at an empty canary cage. “I wasn’t out there all week, but I’m resting it up for Sunday.”
Woodley believed because there were two days remaining before the game, there was a “great chance” for him to be available. It’s highly unlikely; players who don’t practice Friday generally do not play in the ensuing game. If Woodley cannot play, Jason Worilds would move from right to left outside linebacker. And rookie Jarvis Jones would start on the right side.
Veteran Guy Whimper will start for Foster at left guard, while Ziggy Hood will play for Keisel at right end.
“I guess it’s going to be a game-time decision,” Whimper said. “Whoever is out there, they have to be ready to play. I’ve been playing left guard in practice this week, and Ramon has been doing his rehab. So I’m working hard, and I’ll be prepared to start if need be. I prepare myself to start every week.”
That’s what happened the previous week, as Whimper practiced at right tackle for Marcus Gilbert. When the game began against Buffalo, Gilbert was on the field.
“They thought Gil would be ready to go earlier in the week, but they thought he just needed some rest,” Whimper said. “So he got some work in practice (Friday) and was ready to go when they called his number to start the game. (But) it’s a long season in the NFL, and injuries are part of it. Guys get banged up, and whoever is in a backup role has to be ready to step up.”
Gilbert has been battling a high-ankle sprain, but he played against Buffalo and didn’t miss any time this week. He was limited early in the week, along with left tackle Kelvin Beachum (hip), right guard David DeCastro (ankle) and tackle-extra tight end Mike Adams (ribs).
Center Fernando Velasco (knee) did not practice Wednesday, but he did return Thursday along with the rest of the group to a full practice.
“I think this week is better than last week, actually, as far as the O-line coming together,” Gilbert said. “We weren’t sure about a couple guys last week, but we got almost everybody back (Thursday), and we’ll see about Ramon. He worked hard in rehab, and with a little rest this week he could be ready to play.
“Ramon’s a real tough guy and a durable guy, and he’ll play if he can go. But if he can’t go, we always have Abdullah (Whimper). He’ll be ready, and he’s done a good job at a number of positions for us. So, as long as we don’t have any setbacks, the rest of the line should be all right to play against Detroit.”
Rookie safety Shamarko Thomas has a high-ankle sprain and is out indefinitely. He was injured last week against the Bills. Adams, Beachum, DeCastro, Gilbert, Velasco and Heath Miller (not injury related) are probable.