ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP)The Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense is depleted in preparing to face the Buffalo Bills on Sunday night.
Playing their third game in 12 days, the Steelers ruled out linebackers Vince Williams (reserve/COVID-19) and Robert Spillane (knee). Starting cornerback Joe Haden was also inactive after sustaining a concussion in a 23-17 loss to Washington on Monday.
Avery Williamson, acquired last month in a trade with the New York Jets, and Marcus Allen, a converted safety, are expected to fill in at linebacker. Pittsburgh also activated linebacker Ulysees Gilbert III from reserve injured, and elevated linebacker Tegray Scales from the practice squad.
The Steelers welcomed back two key offensive starters. Running back James Conner and center Maurkice Pouncey returned after missing the past two games on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Conner’s return led to Pittsburgh listing running back Anthony McFarland as inactive.
Pittsburgh (11-1) had already clinched its first playoff berth in three years before kickoff by virtue of the Miami Dolphins’ 33-27 loss to Kansas City earlier in the day.
The Bills (9-3) are at their healthiest in months. Backup linebacker Tyrel Dodson is active for the first time since missing six games because of a hamstring injury.
Veteran defensive end Trent Murphy and tight end Tyler Kroft are healthy scratches for a third straight game. Rookie A.J. Epenesa has moved ahead of Murphy on the depth chart.
Also inactive for Buffalo are running back T.J. Yeldon and backup safety Jaquan Johnson, who was already ruled out with an ankle injury.
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL