When the news broke that John Ross had returned to practice for the first time since Week 2, fans rejoiced.
The timing seemed perfect with a huge game against the Steelers next on the schedule. If the Bengals were able to win and become 3-3, while knocking the Steelers down to 4-3, the season will have completely turned around after an 0-3 start.
The hopes of Ross participating in this game don’t seem great though according to Geoff Hobson of the Bengals’ official website:
"Ross apparently didn’t have a setback from Monday’s first practice in more than a month but he probably won’t go Sunday as the Bengals go slow with their first-rounder"
This news is extra hard to take with the fact that Tyler Boyd will also likely be out for this game. He suffered a knee injury against the Bills and was expected to miss a few weeks.
Lewis has already been on record before the bye week saying that Ross would need "a lot of time and a lot of practice," But it is still unfortunate that it doesn’t look like Ross will be available for such an important game.
Ross has been dealing with injuries since the Bengals’ drafted him. Ross came into camp with a shoulder injury and wasn’t able to play until the third preseason game. Ross hurt his knee in the final preseason game, which caused him to miss Week 1.
The rookie made his season debut in Week 2 against the Texans, but it was short-lived as Ross fumbled after a long gain on an end-around. The coaches decide to sit him the rest of the game. Ross hurt his knee during practice the following Monday, and he didn’t return to practice until this week.
At this point getting Ross completely healthy may be the best thing for him and the team, but it could leave the Bengals thin at the receiver position. That is unless the team decides to dress Josh Malone in place of Boyd and Ross.
Pittsburgh has one of the best passing defenses in the league. They have allowed the fewest passing yards per game (154) to teams so far this season. More importantly, the team has 20 sacks so far this season, which is another huge reason their coverage has been holding up.
Andy Dalton will have his work cut out for him without Ross, Boyd and Tyler Eifert. A.J. Green can really only do so much by himself. This may be a game where the running game needs to get going somehow. The Steelers’ defense allows 4.7 yards per carry to opposing teams. At the very least the Bengals will need a balanced attack.
Ross will likely return next week when the Bengals return to Cincinnati to face the Colts, who are one of the worst pass defenses in the league this season. Hopefully, the slow and steady approach with Ross proves fruitful, and he can play without issue the rest of the season.