PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers could be without several key players as they try to rebound from an ugly 34-3 loss in Philadelphia.
Not an ideal time for at least three legitimate options -- linebacker Ryan Shazier (knee), guard Ramon Foster (chest) and receiver Eli Rogers (turf toe) -- to be questionable, or "very questionable," as coach Mike Tomlin calls them.
The Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday's opponent, can really play, and the Steelers are coming off one of the worst games of the Mike Tomlin era. The Steelers hadn't trailed by 30-plus points since the Bill Clinton regime (1997, against the Cowboys)
No one walked into Lincoln Financial Field expecting Pittsburgh to struggle with basic things such as tackling on screen plays or properly blocking for field goal attempts like they did.
"You name it, we did it," Tomlin said. "We've got the chance to respond in an appropriate way."
Safeties Robert Golden (hamstring) and Sean Davis (back) also are being evaluated. Linebacker Lawrence Timmons suffered a punctured shin wound that required a hospital visit Sunday but "appears to be fine," Tomlin said.
Shazier would be the most critical loss. He's close to breakout-star status, and you can tell he wants to play his first full NFL season. He shrugged off a Week 1 knee aggravation as a non-factor, but here he is two weeks later with another aggravation. Tomlin said Sunday that Shazier is dealing with an MCL, so perhaps he's trying to play through a sprain.
Williams is a capable swing linebacker who can play both spots, but Shazier, when he's playing at a high level, takes this defense to a new level. And Shazier will be eager to return after he didn't stay in coverage on Darren Sproles' 73-yard touchdown. Shazier broke toward the quarterback too early, leaving Sproles wide open down the sideline.
Regardless of who's out, expect a more inspired performance from the Steelers defense after a few days of harsh evaluation. Team captains Cameron Heyward and William Gay told the defensive players to own the loss and not point fingers.
Tomlin places the onus on the entire team to get better in a hurry, saying even coaches need to put defensive players in better one-on-one matchups.
"We all have to be responsible," Tomlin said.