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Notes: Jones' foot injury one of few blows; Eifert returns limited; Dalton, Ben tip hat


Adam Jones' foot has gone to the head of the class in topics dominating Sunday's steel cage match (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) at sold-out Paul Brown Stadium.

Jones surfaced in the Bengals locker room during the media period Wednesday in a cast and he used a scooter to wheel around to meetings while not putting any weight on it.

From what can be gathered, there is no broken bone and no procedure is planned after it was evaluated by doctors on all sides following Sunday's 37-3 win in Cleveland. What seems to be required to ease the pain is rest and while there's a sliver of a chance he could play against Pittsburgh, it's unlikely that would be enough time and he may be looking at a week or two.

The breathless scrutiny of Jones is a reminder of just how fortunate the Bengals have been when it comes to injuries and is a major reason they're 10-2.

According to STATS, the Bengals have lost the second fewest number of games because of injury with 62, trailing only the NFL-leading Dolphins with 55. No one else is close with Denver (85), Oakland (90), and St. Louis (93).  But it's obviously not everything. Miami and Oakland are 5-7 and the Rams are 4-8 while Denver is 10-2.

Same when it comes to looking at the season-ending injured reserve lists. According to STATS, the Bengals and Dolphins are tied with the fewest number of players currently on injured reserve with three. The Raiders are next with four and the Broncos are tied with the just-the-opposite 2-10 Browns with five.   

And if you look at the five teams who have lost the fewest games since 2011, they haven't won a thing, ranging from the 2011 Atlanta Falcons (63) to the 2012 Vikings (86). Both teams went 10-6 and got bounced in the Wild Card round.

 So it looks like they may be heading into Sunday's game against the Steelers' high-powered receivers without their best cornerback.

But tight end Tyler Eifert, the NFL touchdowns leader who missed last week's game, practiced Wednesday for the first time since suffering a pinched nerve in his neck in the Nov. 29 victory over the Rams. He was listed as limited.   But slot cornerback Leon Hall (back) and safety George Iloka (groin) didn't practice Wednesday, although they were in sweats riding the exercise bikes during the first part of practice.

That puts the Bengals' secondary at razor-thin depth. Hall missed last week's game and his place was taken by rookie cornerback Josh Shaw. The slot corner behind Hall, Darqueze Dennard, is on injured reserve and their fourth corner is free-agent rookie Troy Hill, promoted from the practice squad last week for his NFL debut. Even if Hall can start the game, they may have to activate cornerbacks Chris Lewis-Harris or Asa Jackson off the practice squad to make sure they're covered.

Shaw injured his back late in the first half Sunday and left the game, but he was on the field Wednesday and practiced full. Starting cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick moved into the slot and Hill played the outside.

 Iloka also missed last Sunday's game against Cleveland. Joining Eifert in limited work were Kirkpatrick (knee), starting full back Ryan Hewitt (knee), and starting left guard Clint Boling (neck).

Meanwhile, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is on a torrid pace. He has thrown for at least 334 yards in his last four games, when Pittsburgh has rolled up at least 459 yards, with a trio of receivers that each has a game in the top seven of this year's top NFL individual receiving yardage efforts.

Left tackle Andrew Whitworth took his weekly rest day Wednesday. Rookie wide receiver Mario Alford also didn't practice for reasons not injury related.

The Steelers are healthy for this one. Even though starting cornerback William Gay (concussion) didn't practice Wednesday, indications are he'll play. It's not as clear with starting tight end Heath Miller (rib) and backup tight end Matt Spaeth (knee). Miller, who rarely misses games, was out last week, the only game he's missed this season. 

SLANTS AND SCREENS: Kirkpatrick on Steelers guard David DeCastro's observation that, "We don't like them and they don't like us:"

"Facts," Kirkpatrick said . . .

But Kirkpatrick says there is also much respect there: "I respect Antonio Brown through the roof." . . .

There is also a Mutual Admiration Society with the quarterbacks. In his conference call with Cincinnati media Wednesday, Roethlisberger called the Bengals' Andy Dalton "a top tier,' quarterback. Dalton said he watched Roethlisberger before he got into the league because it was fun. Because his game is so unique, Dalton said never knew what to expect from him. They both recalled enjoying each other's company at Dalton's first Pro Bowl after the 2011 season . . .

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