Steelers' starters Heyward, Gilbert dealing with injuries
PITTSBURGH (AP) Pittsburgh Steelers right tackle Marcus Gilbert is dealing with an elbow injury he deemed as significant, while defensive end Cam Heyward has a high right ankle sprain.
Both starters vowed Sunday to be ready for the team's regular-season opener in two weeks at Washington.
Heyward and Gilbert left Friday's preseason game against New Orleans in the second quarter. Two days later, Gilbert wore a sleeve on his left elbow in the locker room and Heyward had a protective boot on his right foot.
''I think we have a lot of time and it works in our favor that we're playing Monday (in the season opener),'' Heyward said. ''I'm going to use that to my advantage.''
Gilbert, who hyperextended his left elbow against the Saints, was also dealing with a shoulder injury to the same arm that forced him to miss time during the preseason. Gilbert said the elbow is something he can play through.
''There's no way I'm missing that first game,'' Gilbert said. ''I'll be there no matter what.''
Gilbert, the Steelers' second-round pick in 2011, missed four games the previous three seasons. He allowed just one sack last season while shutting down several of the top pass rushers in the league, including Super Bowl MVP Von Miller in the regular season and playoffs.
Gilbert said he doesn't have to undergo surgery now, but may need it in the future. He is being evaluated by renowned surgeon Dr. James Andrews.
''I can play on it now,'' Gilbert said. ''It's something that just has to heal. It's not going to be something that keeps me off the field.''
Since entering the NFL as the Steelers' first-round pick in 2011, Heyward has appeared in 80 consecutive games, tied for the fifth-longest active streak by a defensive end.
''I take pride in not missing games,'' Heyward said. ''It's Week 1, I'm going to be there.''
Heyward's high ankle sprain could jeopardize that streak. He said his injury was in between a mild Grade 1 and moderate Grade 2 sprain.
''They couldn't differentiate much from where I was right after into where I am now,'' Heyward said. ''I should be ready for the game.''
Heyward was the victim of a cut block against the Saints. He stayed in for another play before leaving the field with an ice bag taped to his ankle.
Pittsburgh can ill afford to lose Heyward, a defensive leader who played 88 percent of the team's snaps last season and led the Steelers in sacks the previous two years. Heyward and Stephon Tuitt have teamed to give the Steelers one of the most formidable tandems at defensive end. Tuitt, who enters his third season, has no problem stepping up if Heyward is forced to miss time.
''That's the worst-case scenario and I don't think that's going to happen,'' Tuitt said. ''But if it did happen, it would be up to me to step in as the leader and do it.''
NOTES: The Steelers placed offensive tackle Jerald Hawkins, their fourth-round pick, on injured reserve with a torn labrum, while quarterback Dustin Vaughan was waived injured. The team also reduced its roster to 79 players prior to Tuesday's league-mandated 75-player deadline. Included on the list was 2014 sixth-round pick Jordan Zumwalt.
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