DENVER (The Sports Xchange) – Pittsburgh Steelers All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown and running back DeAngelo Williams were ruled out for Sunday’s divisional-round playoff game at the Denver Broncos.
The Steelers listed quarterback Ben Roethlisberger as questionable on Friday’s injury report with a sprained AC joint and ligament damage in his right shoulder. Roethlisberger threw the ball briefly on Friday.
Roethlisberger and Brown (concussion) were injured in the brutally physical 18-16 win over the Cincinnati Bengals last Saturday night, and both came on hits from linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who has since been fined and suspended for three games next season.
The Steelers said Brown would not play even before the team took the field for the final time this week on Friday.
With Brown out and Williams still sidelined with an injured foot, it will be the first time in NFL playoff history that a team takes the field without its regular-season leader in receiving and rushing.
Brown was injured Saturday in a helmet-to-helmet collision with Burfict, who drew a penalty on the play in a testy game that escalated due to overaggressive contact and post-whistle jousting on both sides.
Replacing Brown, who had 136 receptions for 1,834 yards and 10 touchdowns during the regular season, will not be a one-man job.
“You can never just plug someone in for A.B. because A.B. is pretty special,” Roethlisberger said. “We’ve had guys step up all year. If A.B. can’t go then we have faith and confidence that the next guy will step up and be the best player they can be.”
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said the “next man up” philosophy is merely a bunch of words unless the players buy into it.
Second-year receiver Martavis Bryant, who was second on the team in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns despite missing the first five games of the season, will likely get more looks but it’s Markus Wheaton who will find himself in Brown’s roving role in the formation most of the game.
The Steelers beat the Broncos 34-27 on Dec. 20 at Heinz Field.
Brown led the Steelers last week with seven receptions for 119 yards and had 16-189 with two touchdowns in the Dec. 20 game against the Broncos. He was targeted 193 times in 590 pass attempts by the Steelers this season.
The Steelers found out they had suitable replacements for Williams against the Bengals. Williams finished the regular season with 907 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on 200 carries. He injured his foot and ankle in the first half of the regular-season finale against the Cleveland Browns.
Against the Bengals, running backs Fitzgerald Toussaint and Jordan Todman combined for 183 yards from scrimmage. Toussaint had 58 yards rushing and 60 yards receiving, including a clutch third-down conversion on the winning drive in the final minute. Todman was the team’s leading rusher with 60 yards on 11 carries (5.9-yard average).