Updated: 4:15 p.m.
Adam Jones, who has played a very solid third cornerback for the Bengals over the second half of the season, apparently suffered a hamstring injury during Friday's practice and was listed as limited and questionable for Sunday's game (1 p.m.-Cincinnat's Channel 12) in Pittsburgh.
Even though backup cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (head) and kicker Mike Nugent (kicking calf) haven't worked the bulk of this week and didn't go Friday, they have been called questionable. Head coach Marvin Lewis said either Nugent or Josh Brown is going to be active and that it's going to be a game-time decision.
Backup running back Cedric Peerman (ankle), who has missed the last two games and was limited every day this week, is listed as questionable but Lewis said he had a good week of practice.
Everyone else is probable including right tackle Andre Smith (foot) after he went full go during Friday morning's practice on the Paul Brown Stadium field. Smith surfaced on the injury report after Thursday's practice Also probable is long snapper Clark Harris (not injury related) and starting WILL backer Vontaze Burfict (illness) even though they didn't practice Friday.
If Jones can't go Sunday, the third corner is probably going to be Nate Clements, a veteran of 161 starts at cornerback but he hasn't made one since the second game of the season.
As expected, Steelers starting cornerback Ike Taylor (ankle) has been ruled out for Sunday, but the other starter, Keenan Lewis (hip) is probable after working limited Wednesday and Friday and missing Thursday. Starting right tackle Mike Adams (ankle) is listed as doubtful and looks like he's going to miss his fourth straight game. Sack ace James Harrison and starting center Maurkice Pouncey are probable after they were limited with illness Friday and strong safety Troy Polamalu went full go after missing Wednesday and Thursday with a non-injury reason.
MARVIN'S TAKE: Lewis can't downplay the importance of this one, so he didn't try after Friday's practice.
"It's a really big game for us and for our young players it's a chance for them to have an opportunity to keep playing; that's what we're here for," Lewis said.
If anything, the 2012 season is an object lesson in the modern NFL. Teams can't look at a schedule in April or even November and say they don't have a shot. On the morning of Nov. 11 the Bengals were 3-5 and people were wondering if they were going to coach the Senior Bowl yet again. But after winning five of six, here they are, 60 minutes from another playoff berth.
"I think it's good for your future leaders to understand that, that you just have to keep doing your job the way we expect you to and eliminate the errors that we had in the first eight football games and you have an opportunity to win each and every week," Lewis said.
"History proves that year after year after year. The fact that we had to play division teams down the end and division teams had to play against each other, and at that point Pittsburgh and Baltimore hadn't played each other so you knew there was going to be change. Cleveland hadn't played anybody. I felt like we had a stretch of schedule where we played the NFC East and those teams had to go through that same schedule. That was a good thing. I felt like if we just took care of our business, regardless of anything else that occurred we would be in good shape. And it has."
The two stats Lewis is going to be looking at when he faces the media at about 4:15 p.m. Sunday are turnovers and third-down percentage. He always does, but they seem to really turn a game either way when facing the Steelers.
Take a look at the Bengals '09 sweep of Pittsburgh when they were only a combined 7-for-26 on third down. In the first game, the Bengals gave up third down 50 percent of the time on defense and on offense were a woeful 3-for-12. But the game had just one turnover and Bengals cornerback Johnathan Joseph cashed it for a pick-six in Cincinnati's 23-20 win. In the War of 18-12 two months later, the Bengals again got the game's only turnover, a pick by defensive lineman Frostee Rucker early in the second half that allowed the Bengals to tie the game at nine on a field goal and negate their 4-for-14 slog on third down. The defense holding the Steelers to 3 of 15 on third down won it for the Bengals along with the pick.
And take the Steelers 24-17 win at PBS back on Oct. 21. The Bengals won the turnover battle, 2-1, but got hammered on third down on defense when the Steelers converted 10 of 16. In the last two games at Heinz, turnovers are big if you count special teams gaffes.
Last year the Bengals had a field goal blocked and gave up Antonio Brown's 60-yard punt return for a TD, two plays that don't go down as turnovers but might as well have in a 35-7 loss. In 2010, the Steelers had two pick-sixes against Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer for Pittsburgh's only TDs in a 23-7 loss.
"You have to possess the football. If you look at those games, the biggest thing is you can't have turnovers," Lewis said. "We had one big one (in October), but turnovers are big and, like you said, winning on third down. That's what you need to do. But to say that you're going to go back and take numbers from 2007 and you've got one guy on that offensive team and was he on this football team, that's hard to do."
"You don't have any of the same coaches, you don't have anything. You don't have the same offensive scheme (in trying to find a common thread in the series). If you look at any team, when you lose, you're going to find that. It doesn't matter – Pittsburgh or anybody – when you lose a football game and you look at when you win offensively and you lose offensively you're going to find that you're going to have that and that's going to be an issue. They've been a top-10 defense throughout that time so I would suggest the same thing with Baltimore even when we're winning the games, it would be a similar scenario."
WEATHER CHECK: The National Weather Service in Wilmington, Ohio is calling for mostly cloudy skies with no chance of precipitation and a temperature of 33 degrees Sunday in Pittsburgh. Winds out of the south and west at 10 miles per hour and gusting up to 15 miles per hour will make the temperature feel like it's in the mid-to-upper 20s.