Brown, Boswell hurt; new kicker inked
PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Steelers All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown is uncertain to play in the team’s biggest game of the season.
Brown was listed as questionable to play in the Steelers’ must-win, regular-season finale at home against Cincinnati on Sunday. He missed all three practices this week with a knee injury, and coach Mike Tomlin said the team sent Brown for further evaluation on Friday.
Tomlin said Brown first began experiencing knee discomfort following the team’s loss last Sunday at New Orleans. He caught 14 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns in that game.
“I gave him a (veteran’s day off) Wednesday like I give to a lot of guys,” Tomlin said. “(He) got in here (Thursday) and didn’t feel comfortable enough to do it. We sent him for tests (Friday). We’ll get the results of those tests and have more information.”
Tomlin didn’t rule Brown out of Sunday’s game.
“Obviously, he’s a veteran player,” Tomlin said. “If it gets better, there’s not a lot of physical repetition needed to perform. We’ll see where all of that goes.”
Brown missed the final two regular-season games in 2017 with a calf injury, but he returned in a home playoff loss against Jacksonville to catch seven passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns. He also missed a playoff game at Denver in 2016 with a concussion. Before last season, Brown hadn’t missed a regular-season game because of injury since 2012.
Pittsburgh needs a win against Cincinnati and help from the Cleveland Browns to continue its season. The Steelers would win the AFC North for a third straight year and qualify for the playoffs for a fifth consecutive season if Pittsburgh wins and Cleveland defeats the Baltimore Ravens on the road.
Having Brown would certainly help.
Brown, a four-time All-Pro, leads the NFL with a single-season franchise record of 15 touchdown receptions. He’s also tied for seventh in the league with 104 receptions and ninth with 1,297 yards receiving.
Brown needs six catches on Sunday to reach 110 receptions for the fourth time in his career, the second-most such seasons in NFL history. He is three yards from becoming the sixth player with five or more 1,300-yard receiving seasons and 103 yards away from being the third player who has five or more seasons with 1,400 yards.
More pressing for the Steelers is continuing their historic run of making the playoffs.
“I don’t care about anything but winning this football game,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. “Because nothing matters if you don’t.”
If the Steelers reach the playoffs, embattled kicker Chris Boswell won’t be with them. The Steelers placed Boswell on injured reserve and signed Matt McCrane on Friday.
“(Boswell) experienced some discomfort Sunday in the game (against New Orleans),” Tomlin said. “His usual work day is Thursday, so we waited to see the ramifications. He was a full participant (Thursday), but felt some discomfort after, and we thought it was necessary to make a move.”
The Steelers signed Boswell to a contract extension in August after he made 85 of 95 field goals in three seasons, including three game-winners last season, but he has struggled in 2018. Boswell has missed seven field-goal attempts and five extra points.
McCrane tried out with the Steelers after Boswell missed two kicks in a loss at Oakland earlier this month. McCrane appeared in four games this season with Arizona and Oakland, converting 5 of 9 field goals and all five extra points.
McCrane said Friday he was playing golf when he received his call from the Steelers. He worked out for the first time at Heinz Field following Friday’s practice.
“It’s been crazy, it really has,” McCrane said. “I got here late last night, had a couple delays, but I’m excited to get here and get going. It’s been a whirlwind for sure.”
Notes: Pro Bowl RB James Conner, who missed the last three games with an ankle injury, is listed as questionable after fully practicing this week. … LB Vince Williams (toe) is doubtful and S Sean Davis (quad) is questionable for Sunday’s game.