The Steelers have just a few games left in which to secure the No. 1 AFC seed. Their home matchup against the Patriots in Week 15 is the most important of those, but don't sleep on the importance of going into Cincinnati and winning Monday night as a critical component towards chasing homefield advantage.
One problem: they might have to do it without Antonio Brown. The superstar wide receiver, who has exploded the last few weeks as the Steelers offense got things cranked up, is battling a toe injury and has missed the last two days of practice.
According to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler, Brown may very well miss the game against the Bengals too. And, per Fowler, the Steelers are at least gameplanning as if he won't be available.
Steelers hopeful Brown plays but are preparing in case he doesn’t - Martavis Bryant would stay in his role while JuJu/DHB/Justin Hunter could split AB’s role— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) December 2, 2017
Fowler reported on Saturday morning that the injury is considered "minor" and it is very possible he ends up playing for the Steelers in this divisional rivalry game on Monday night. Brown wasas questionable.
Having the Monday Night Football game is a big plus, because it means an extra day of practice and an extra day to get healthy for Brown. But it's also hard to imagine the Steelers pushing the envelope when it comes to Brown playing; they have to have him for the long haul if they want to win a Super Bowl.
Brown might very well be having the best season of his career right now after signing a lucrative extension this offseason. Through 11 games this year, he has a league-leading 80 catches and a league-leading 1.195 receiving yards to go along with eight touchdown receptions. Brown exploded out of the gate with 182 receiving yards against the Browns in Week 1.
He slowed down a little bit during the middle of the season, but the last two weeks he's been on fire, catching 20 passes for 313 yards and five touchdowns.
Brown is the best wide receiver in football, and there shouldn't be a debate about it. It will be interesting to see how much he plays and, should he miss a lot of time, how the Steelers look on offense without him.