Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals
Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET
Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Antonio Brown is getting some dark-horse MVP buzz lately, but there is a simpler question surrounding him on Monday: Will he play?
Brown’s toe started to bother him late last week. He missed Friday’s practice, which didn’t set off too many alarms. But when he missed Saturday’s practice, it became a significant concern. He was listed as questionable on the injury report, and seems to be a true game-time decision.
Of course, for many fans Brown’s status is of utmost importance due to fantasy football. Week 13 is generally the final week of the regular season in fantasy. Since the Steelers play on Monday night, those owners who gambled on Brown playing are unlikely to have a replacement on the bench who didn’t already play Sunday. Many people will be eagerly awaiting the release of the Steelers’ inactive list 90 minutes before kickoff.
Brown hasn’t missed many games in his career (the last time he missed a regular-season game due to injury was 2012), and he plays at a high level in just about all of them. He has 80 catches for an NFL-best 1,185 yards and eight touchdowns this season. He has 9,572 yards in his career which gives him a chance to reach 10,000 before the end of this season, if he plays in all the games.
It would also be a rare case for Brown to play without practicing late in the week. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has a rule that players who don’t practice two days before the game don’t play, and he rarely strays from that rule. Brown would seem to be an obvious exception if he is healthy enough to go.
Brown’s importance to the Steelers offense is obvious, and the Steelers have a lot to play for. The New England Patriots won on Sunday to improve to 10-2. The Steelers are 9-2 and would like to get the No. 1 seed in case they meet the Patriots in the AFC Championship, so they could host that game. The Steelers will be expected to beat the Bengals with or without Brown, but it clearly gets a lot harder without their superstar receiver.
Fantasy owners are on the edge of their seats to see if Brown plays. Steelers fans want him to play. Bengals fans, who have a small hope at 5-6 of getting a wild-card spot, are curious too. ESPN executives are hoping he goes. How often has the release of an inactive list been this anticipated?
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