Starting safety George Iloka continues to sit out while dealing with a groin injury that's been plaguing him since last week. After not practicing Wednesday, Iloka was once again sitting out and now looks very questionable for Sunday's AFC North clash. He managed to get a limited session in last Wednesday before not practicing Thursday or Friday heading into Week 13, and didn't play in the 37-3 win over the Cleveland Browns. It would be a tough loss for him not to play against the surging Steelers offense.
If Iloka sits out on Sunday, that means backup safety Shawn Williams would be in line for another start. He's done well in his two starts this season, including last week's win over the Browns. He also started in Week 4 against the Kansas city Chiefs as Iloka sat out with an ankle injury. For the season, Williams has 18 total tackles, two pass deflections and made a game-changing interception during the Week 8 win in Pittsburgh. He picked off Ben Roethlisberger in the final minutes of the game before Andy Dalton threw the go-ahead touchdown pass to A.J. Green en route to a 16-10 win.
Also missing Thursday's practice was starting corner Adam Jones, which isn't much of a surprise after he told reporters Wednesday that he won't be playing this week. Assuming he in fact doesn't play this Sunday, it will be interesting to see what the Bengals do at that boundary corner spot. They could play rookie Josh Shaw there, move Leon Hall out from the slot to the boundary or even play Troy Hill on the boundary. Hill and Shaw both played well during last week's win, but the Browns' offense can't hold a candle to the firepower the Steelers' offense features.
Jones did post this Instagram picture while practice was going on, indicating after just one day, his cast is already off.
Speaking of Hall, he was able to practice on Thursday after sitting out Wednesday and all of last week with a back injury. Hall typically doesn't practice or has done so limitedly in the first practice of every week this season. It's unclear how healthy he is at this moment after missing last week with a back injury.
Starting linebacker Vontaze Burfict was held out Thursday, but as Coley Harvey and Geoff Hobson noted, Burfict also received last Thursday off with what appears to now be his designated rest day. Burfict played his first game of the season in Week 8 after offseason microfracture surgery, but he slowly is getting back to the Tez that dominated in his first two seasons in the NFL.
Starting cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (knee), guard Clint Boling (neck), tight end Tyler Eifert (neck/stinger), and fullback/h-back Ryan Hewitt (knee) all practiced Thursday after getting in limited sessions Wednesday. The fact that Eifert continues to practice bodes well for him playing in Week 14 after missing Week 13. With so many guys on defense hurting, Eifert and his NFL-high 12 touchdowns are going to be critical to winning Sunday's game.
Be sure to check back later for the entire Thursday practice and participation report for both the Steelers and Bengals.