Middle linebacker C.J. Mosley, nose tackle Michael Pierce and rookie tight end Hayden Hurst are listed as questionable on the Ravens’ final injury report before Sunday night’s game at the Pittsburgh Steelers, but coach John Harbaugh sounded encouraged that all three players will play at Heinz Field.
Of Mosley and Pierce, Harbaugh said Friday, “I don’t see any reason why they wouldn’t play. You just have to make sure. I guess you could always have a reaction. I haven’t talked to the trainers yet in terms of how they reacted to today’s practice. That’s always part of the evaluation. But based on what I saw today, they looked good.”
Mosley (bone bruise in left knee) and Pierce (bruised foot) sat out Sunday’s 27-14 victory over the Denver Broncos. But after being limited in practice Wednesday, both defensive starters practiced fully Thursday and Friday.
Sidelined since Aug. 24 when he underwent surgery to repair a stress fracture in his foot, Hurst practiced on a limited basis for the third straight day, but did enough to impress Harbaugh.
“It didn’t really seem like there was a difference between when he left and what he did this week,” Harbaugh said. “I thought he looked very good, very strong. As far as his availability to the game, that will be depend on what the trainers say. We’ll just have to see how that goes. It’s something that they’ll evaluate between now and then.”
Two starters in cornerback Brandon Carr (knee) and left tackle Ronnie Stanley (foot) participated fully for the second consecutive day and are questionable. The same applies to defensive back Anthony Levine Sr. (hamstring). Starting outside linebacker Terrell Suggs (knee) was limited in practice Friday and is also questionable.
The team ruled out rookie cornerback Anthony Averett (hamstring) for the second straight week as well as defensive tackle Willie Henry (hernia surgery).
Steelers starting strong safety Morgan Burnett (groin) and slot cornerback Mike Hilton (elbow) did not practice Friday and are listed as doubtful for Sunday. Rookie Terrell Edmunds started for Burnett against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday and could get the call again.
Six starters in guards David DeCastro (fractured hand) and Ramon Foster (not injury related), right tackle Marcus Gilbert (hamstring), center Maurkice Pouncey (not injury related), quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (not injury related) and wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (abdomen) practiced fully Friday and were removed from the injury report.
Henry ‘anxious’ to return
The defense has risen to the top of the NFL in total yards allowed (273.0 per game) and ranks second against the pass (169.3 yards per game), and Henry is eager to contribute.
The 6-foot-3, 291-pound defensive tackle, who had 33 tackles and 3½ sacks a year ago, has been sidelined since undergoing hernia surgery during training camp in August. But if it was up to him and not the team’s medical staff, Henry said he would have returned to the practice field a long time ago.
“I just can’t wait to get back out there because as soon as I get back out there, we’re getting active,” he said. “I feel like I can go back out there right now. I feel like I should have been out there today. It’s a time thing. We’re just waiting for me to get the green light. I feel like I’m ready to go. I feel like I was ready to go the day after the surgery. I’m just anxious.”
Another challenge for tackles
After they shut out Broncos pass-rushing wizard Von Miller in Sunday’s Ravens win, the reward for Stanley and James Hurst reward is another difficult assignment.
The starting left and right tackles, respectively, will try to limit the Pittsburgh outside linebacker tandem of Bud Dupree and T.J. Watt. Watt leads the Steelers in sacks with three, while Dupree is tied for second with two. Either way, Hurst knows the task ahead is sizeable.
“They’re good players,” he said. “They play really hard. You can’t stop blocking them. As soon as you stop, that’s when they’re going to turn the corner and get a sack. They have [defensive end Stephon] Tuitt and [defensive tackle Cameron] Heyward in the middle — two huge, strong guys that are going to really push the pocket. Everyone’s got to be on their game. It’s definitely a group effort. You can’t just have a couple guys doing well in pass protection because the other guys are going to feast on that. We know that, and Ronnie and I both know that those guys are going to be coming hard off the edge in a variety of looks. They’re really good players. So it’s a challenge for us, for sure.”
Quarterback Joe Flacco has completed passes to nine different receivers through the first three games, and four players (wide receivers Michael Crabtree, John Brown and Willie Snead IV, and running back Buck Allen) have reached double digits in receptions. The diversity in targets is one aspect of the passing attack that pleases offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. “We try to use all eligible receivers and runners, and then it’s sort of my responsibility to get the ball to our best guys a little bit more,” he said. “We have spread it around, and that’s a good thing.” … If Don “Wink” Martindale was picking players for a backyard football game, the Ravens defensive coordinator said Roethlisberger would be his first selection. “We talk about extending plays. That’s what he does,” Martindale said. “That’s where he’s a top-tier quarterback in my mind, in my humble opinion, because he turns it into backyard football. If we ever had a backyard game, he’d be my first pick because that’s where he really excels as a quarterback and the receivers play off of that very well.” … The team serenaded O.J. Brigance the day before the senior advisor to player engagement’s 49th birthday Saturday, and Harbaugh praised the former Ravens and Stallions player who is battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which is more commonly known as ALS. “Just an amazing, amazing man, inspiration to us all, every single day,” Harbaugh said. “Every single day he brings himself into work and makes a contribution to what we’re doing and makes a difference for our guys. And not just here — he makes a difference everywhere, especially in the ALS community. I would encourage all of our fans out there, especially our younger fans that don’t know O.J. as well, to look into his story and draw inspiration and some spiritual strength from who he is and what he’s all about. So, happy birthday to O.J. Brigance!” … Kicker Justin Tucker is scheduled to visit the Baltimore School for the Arts on Monday afternoon and donate a $50,000 check he received from the CBS show “Most Valuable Performer.” Tucker, a noted singer, crooned “Ave Maria,” won the online fan vote, and gave the winnings to the school’s TWIGS program, which offers free arts classes to Baltimore City children in grades 2-8 who have shown potential in the arts.