On Friday, the team listed Jones, who has a back injury, as doubtful on the final injury report. That means he’s very unlikely to play, which is a big loss for a Bengals team that, while deep at cornerback, doesn’t have another guy next to Dre Kirkpatrick that’s been through the wars of Bengals - Steelers like Jones has.
Replacing him on the boundary will likely be Darqueze Dennard, who has played very well this season, but he’s got limited experience against the Steelers. He’s usually been the third or fourth corner while being matched up with guys like Sammie Coates, who actually torched Dennard for 97 receiving yards in their Week 2 matchup in 2016.
Then you’ve got William Jackson III, who has also played well at times this season, but he’s been far more inconsistent in what’s essentially his rookie year. He’ll also be playing in just his sixth NFL game on Sunday and first matchup with Pittsburgh.
While Jones hasn’t played great this year, he’s still someone the Bengals badly needed for this game. He’s also a big reason why Steelers All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown has typically struggled versus the Bengals, despite being arguably the best receiver in football.
Without Jones, Dennard and Jackson will need to step up big if Cincinnati is to win in Pittsburgh. The good news is the Steelers’ passing game has struggled mightily at times this season, so perhaps the Bengals will be able to carry on without Jones in what’s become a critical game for the Bengals’ climb back into postseason contention.