The Steelers have only a few games to secure the first seed of AFC. Their home game against the Patriots in Week 15 is the most important, but they do not fall asleep about the importance of entering Cincinnati and winning Monday night as a critical component to pursue the local advantage.
One problem: they could have it done without Antonio Brown. The superstar wide receiver, who has exploded in recent weeks due to the Steelers' offense, has struggled with a toe injury and has missed the last two days of practice.
According to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler, Brown could well miss the game against the Bengals as well. And, for Fowler, the Steelers are at least planning the game as if it were not available.
Fowler reported Saturday morning that the injury is considered "minor" and that he may end up playing for the Steelers in this divisional rivalry game on Monday night. Brown was included in the team's final injury report as questionable.
Having the Monday Night Football game is a great advantage, because it means an extra day of practice and an extra day to be healthy for Brown. But it's also hard to imagine the Steelers pushing the limit when it comes to Brown playing; They have to have it in the long term if they want to win a Super Bowl.
Brown could be having the best season of his career at this time after signing a lucrative extension this offseason. Through 11 games this year, he has 80 receptions, leaders in the league, and 1,119 receiving yards, plus eight touchdown receptions. Brown exploded from the door with 182 yards receiving against the Browns in week 1.
He slowed down a bit in the middle of the season, but the last two weeks he's been on fire, catching 20 pbades for 313 yards and five touchdowns .
Brown is the best wide receiver in football, and there should not be a debate about it. It will be interesting to see how much he plays and, if he loses a lot of time, how the Steelers look on the offense without him.