PITTSBURGH -- While the status of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for Sunday night's showdown against the Los Angeles Chargers is still unknown, the Pittsburgh Steelers definitively ruled out two significant players on their defense.
Both T.J. Watt (hip, knee) and cornerback Joe Haden (foot) were ruled out for Sunday night, as were guard Kevin Dotson and defensive lineman Isaiahh Loudermilk.
Watt initially injured the knee and hip on a fourth-quarter sack of Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff as the knee appeared to make direct contact with Goff's. The MRIs on the injuries were negative, sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter, but Watt was unable to participate in practice this week.
Haden sprained a foot against the Lions and didn't finish the game, and he also didn't practice this week.
As for Roethlisberger, the Steelers have until 4 p.m. ET Saturday to elevate him from the reserve/COVID-19 list to the 53-man roster for him to be eligible to play Sunday. The team could opt to elevate him before he exits protocols. If he doesn't have a second negative test Sunday morning, Roethlisberger would simply be inactive for the game.
Not only will the Steelers be without Watt and Haden on defense, but coach Mike Tomlin said earlier this week he doesn't expect to have safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, who tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday.
"You've got to made adjustments with players like that," defensive coordinator Keith Butler said of Watt and Fitzpatrick. "They're two of the best players you've got. ... Hopefully, the guys will step up. They understand how good of players those guys are. We're just going to have to give it our best shot and see what happens.
"... Are they going to be as good as Minkah? Are they gonna be as good at T.J.? There are not too many people in the league as good as those guys are. The guys that we have on this team, the guys that are gonna be stepping up when we play, we have a lot of confidence in."
With at least three key players on defense missing, the Steelers will be short-handed against an offense that has the capability of being explosive in the vertical game.
Tre Norwood, Miles Killebrew, Justin Layne and James Pierre are likely to see increased snaps. The Steelers could also elevate practice squad safety and former first-round pick Karl Joseph.
Dotson suffered an ankle sprain against the Lions, while Loudermilk appeared on the practice report earlier this week with a groin injury.