This was the first padded practice this week after Tuesday was more of a walk-through session, which did see Andy Dalton make his long-awaited return to the field. However, he didn't really play a role in Tuesday's practice, as he playfully took two snaps. One of those snaps was a short, left handed throw and the other was a handoff. Dalton had the cast on his thumb removed on Monday.
Dalton was not dressed for Wednesday's practice as AJ McCarron continues to take the majority of practice reps and looks poised to start his first NFL playoff game. It will be McCarron's fourth NFL start, and ironically, his first real action came in Week 14 against the same Steelers team he will see again on Saturday.
Fullback/h-back Ryan Hewitt was also not dressed as he too looks unlikely to play on Saturday. When the Bengals moved rookie lineman Jake Fisher to h-back and changed his number to 44, that was a good indicator Hewitt is dealing with a multiple-week knee injury. He originally suffered the injury against the Broncos in Week 16.
That game saw rookie tight end C.J. Uzomah playing h-back, but it looked like Cincinnati liked Fisher there more last week after Uzomah got just two snaps against the Ravens while Fisher got 25, though some came at offensive tackle. We probably should expect to see more of Fisher again this week against Pittsburgh.
The best news to come out of Wednesday's session is that no one else was unable to practice as everyone on the 53-man roster other than Dalton and Hewitt look good to go for Saturday. That was the case last Sunday against Baltimore with everyone other than those two being healthy scratches, and Cincinnati appears to have made it out of that game with only the Emmanuel Lamur injury.
It will be interesting to see the practice status of several guys who've been dealing with nagging injuries over the past month. Safety George Iloka (groin), cornerback Adam Jones (foot) and cornerback Leon Hall (back) have all missed games and/or practice time over the past month, so hopefully they didn't have any setbacks Sunday that will limit them this week.
Iloka had missed three of the previous four games with his injury before playing Sunday and finishing with 49 snaps. He split time with Shawn Williams, who filled in nicely for Iloka when he was out, and we should expect to see both guys getting significant snaps on Saturday against Pittsburgh. Williams will likely play some linebacker on passing downs with Lamur now done for the season.
Be sure to check back later for the full practice and injury report for both the Bengals and Steelers as they get set for Saturday's Wild Card showdown. It looks like Pittsburgh may be without star running back DeAngelo Williams this week as he deals with a foot injury that's keeping him out of practice:
DeAngelo Williams is still wearing boot. Did not talk to media. Said he had to go get treatment.— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly_Trib) January 6, 2016