PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Pittsburgh Steelers will have to pick up the pieces from an emotional loss to the New England Patriots without Antonio Brown.
Coach Mike Tomlin says Brown will miss Pittsburgh's Christmas Day visit to Houston with a contusion on his left calf. The NFL's leading receiver left in the second quarter against the Patriots after getting tangled up while trying to catch a pass in the end zone. Tomlin declined to get into the specifics of Brown's injury and didn't put a timetable on a possible return.
"I just know he's out next week," Tomlin said.
The Steelers (11-3) will also be without rookie running back James Conner, who was scheduled to undergo surgery on his right knee Tuesday. Conner, who had 144 yards rushing as Le'Veon Bell's primary backup this season, will be placed on injured reserve. The team will likely promote Terrell Watson from the practice squad to fill Conner's spot on the depth chart.
Whoever is available, the AFC North champions will head to Houston likely needing at least one win over their final two games and — maybe two if — to secure a first-round bye.
Regardless of the injuries to Brown and Conner, the offensive line and secondary could get a boost this week. Right tackle Marcus Gilbert returns from a suspension for violating the league's performance-enhancing substance policy. Tomlin also thinks cornerback Joe Haden may be ready after missing five games with a broken left leg.
Tomlin is only too eager to move forward after a calamitous fourth quarter against the Patriots. Pittsburgh blew an eight-point lead, then botched a chance to pull it out on the final drive when tight end Jesse James' apparent touchdown was overturned on review. Ben Roethlisberger then threw an interception in the end zone rather than spike the ball to set up a potential tying field goal.
"I'm not happy with the outcome," Tomlin said. "We played to win. We didn't win the game. We're not quantifying level of success. We didn't do enough to win the game."
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