Fri Dec 28 6:28pm ET
By DAN SCIFO
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown (84) celebrates his touchdown reception in the second half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Sunday, Dec. 23, 2018. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
File-This Dec. 9, 218, file photo shows Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown (84) running against Oakland Raiders cornerback Gareon Conley (21) during the second half of an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif. Brown is modifying his jersey, using a marker to add an s to the end of his last name. Safety Sean Davis is mulling a present or two to Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield, promising to send the rookie a little something something if the Browns can beat the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday and open the door for the Steelers to win a third straight AFC North title. (AP Photo/D. Ross Cameron, File)
PITTSBURGH (AP) Pittsburgh Steelers All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown is uncertain to play in the team's biggest game of the season.
Brown was listed as questionable to play in the Steelers' must-win, regular-season finale at home against Cincinnati on Sunday. He missed all three practices this week with a knee injury, and coach Mike Tomlin said the team sent Brown for further evaluation on Friday.
Tomlin said Brown first began experiencing knee discomfort following the team's loss last Sunday at New Orleans. He caught 14 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns in that game.
''I gave him a (veteran's day off) Wednesday like I give to a lot of guys,'' Tomlin said. ''(He) got in here (Thursday) and didn't feel comfortable enough to do it. We sent him for tests (Friday). We'll get the results of those tests and have more information.''
Tomlin didn't rule Brown out of Sunday's game.
''Obviously, he's a veteran player,'' Tomlin said. ''If it gets better, there's not a lot of physical repetition needed to perform. We'll see where all of that goes.''
Brown missed the final two regular-season games in 2017 with a calf injury, but he returned in a home playoff loss against Jacksonville to catch seven passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns. He also missed a playoff game at Denver in 2016 with a concussion. Before last season, Brown hadn't missed a regular-season game because of injury since 2012.
Pittsburgh needs a win against Cincinnati and help from the Cleveland Browns to continue its season. The Steelers would win the AFC North for a third straight year and qualify for the playoffs for a fifth consecutive season if Pittsburgh wins and Cleveland defeats the Baltimore Ravens on the road.
Having Brown would certainly help.
Brown, a four-time All-Pro, leads the NFL with a single-season franchise record of 15 touchdown receptions. He's also tied for seventh in the league with 104 receptions and ninth with 1,297 yards receiving.
Brown needs six catches on Sunday to reach 110 receptions for the fourth time in his career, the second-most such seasons in NFL history. He is three yards from becoming the sixth player with five or more 1,300-yard receiving seasons and 103 yards away from being the third player who has five or more seasons with 1,400 yards.
More pressing for the Steelers is continuing their historic run of making the playoffs.
''I don't care about anything but winning this football game,'' quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. ''Because nothing matters if you don't.''
If the Steelers reach the playoffs, embattled kicker Chris Boswell won't be with them. The Steelers placed Boswell on injured reserve and signed Matt McCrane on Friday.
''(Boswell) experienced some discomfort Sunday in the game (against New Orleans),'' Tomlin said. ''His usual work day is Thursday, so we waited to see the ramifications. He was a full participant (Thursday), but felt some discomfort after, and we thought it was necessary to make a move.''
The Steelers signed Boswell to a contract extension in August after he made 85 of 95 field goals in three seasons, including three game-winners last season, but he has struggled in 2018. Boswell has missed seven field-goal attempts and five extra points.
McCrane tried out with the Steelers after Boswell missed two kicks in a loss at Oakland earlier this month. McCrane appeared in four games this season with Arizona and Oakland, converting 5 of 9 field goals and all five extra points.
McCrane said Friday he was playing golf when he received his call from the Steelers. He worked out for the first time at Heinz Field following Friday's practice.
''It's been crazy, it really has,'' McCrane said. ''I got here late last night, had a couple delays, but I'm excited to get here and get going. It's been a whirlwind for sure.''
NOTES: Pro Bowl RB James Conner, who missed the last three games with an ankle injury, is listed as questionable after fully practicing this week. ... LB Vince Williams (toe) is doubtful and S Sean Davis (quad) is questionable for Sunday's game.
New England Patriots wide receiver Demaryius Thomas will open training camp on the team's PUP list. This isn't that much of a surprise as the veteran receiver continues to rehab from a torn ACL suffered last season. But the situation could have fantasy consequences in a few weeks when the Patriots must make their first cuts. If Thomas cannot practice by then, the team may be forced to keep him on the PUP list. This would make the 31-year-old ineligible for the first six regular season games and further damage the value of a player on the back-end of a very productive career.
New England Patriots running back Sony Michel will begin training camp on the PUP list as he continues to recover from offseason knee surgery. Michel will not be eligible to practice with the team and his return is up in the air at this time. The Patriots still have plenty of time to activate the second-year back before first cuts and the expectation is that he should be ready to open the season as their lead back. But players must miss six regular season games if they remain on the PUP list after first cutdowns. The hope is this is precautionary since Michel participated in the team's mandatory minicamp. It is too early to become worried about Michel's status but his situation will have to be monitored throughout training camp all the way up to fantasy drafts.
Houston Texans wide receiver Deandre Carter was placed on the active/PUP list for undisclosed reasons. Carter enters camp looking to lock down a role as Houston's fourth receiver, but he won't be able to practice until the team removes him from the list, which could put him behind in preparation for the upcoming season. Carter had 20 catches for 195 yards for Houston last year after joining the team in the middle of the year. He also spent time returning punts and kicks. Carter can be activated from the list at any time. With wide receiver Will Fuller's injury history, the fourth receiver job in Houston has the potential to produce fantasy points at some point during the season, though Carter shouldn't be drafted in any formats yet, and it's unclear how firm a hold he has on the job.
The Baltimore Ravens placed offensive guard Alex Lewis (shoulder) on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list on Sunday. He is still recovering from shoulder surgery performed in January. Lewis has started 18 games over the past two seasons, but he was unable to perform during the offseason program. OG Jermaine Elumunor has been working with the first-team offense in his absence. The offensive line is a concern for the fantasy outlooks of quarterback Lamar Jackson, the pass game and the running game, so keep a close eye on the blocking of the Ravens during training camp and into the preseason games.
Arizona Cardinals tight end Charles Clay (knee) is dealing with a knee issue and he was one of six players the team placed on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list on Sunday leading up to the open of training camp this week. Clay can be activated at any point, but he cannot do any on-field work until he is activated. He is challenging for a potential starting job, so he'll want to get on the field as soon as possible. The Arizona offense promises to be rather prolific under new head coach Kliff Kingsbury, although with plenty of four- and five-receiver sets, it's uncertain how much the tight end will see of the field. Stay tuned.
The Arizona Cardinals placed defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche (knee) on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list on Sunday. The team also placed linebacker Dante Booker (knee), OL Max Garcia (knee), LB Brooks Reed (hip) and CB Brandon Williams (back) on the PUP. In addition to those moves, they released OL William Holden and DL Immanuel Turner, while signing DL Sterling Bailey. PUP players are eligible to return any point during training camp, but cannot take part in on-field work until they're taking off the list. Nkemdiche and Garcia are each making their way back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered during the 2018 season.
While it's unclear what led to him being placed on it, Houston Texans rookie tight end Kahale Warring will open training camp on the Active/Non-Football Injury list. What this essentially means is that Warring is dealing with some injury that wasn't sustained as part of his NFL duties and that he won't be available to practice at the start of training camp. As a rookie who plays a position where the Texans have a lot of depth, Warring may miss out on valuable early reps that could help him battle for snaps over second-year tight ends Jordan Akins and Jordan Thomas. Warring is much more interesting as a dynasty prospect than a re-draft one at this stage.
The Houston Texans have placed wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins on the active/PUP list. What this means is that Hopkins, who's been dealing with a shoulder injury, will be unable to practice with the team as long as he's on the list, but Hopkins can be activated from the list at any time. There should be no concern at this point about Hopkins' availability for Week 1, though it would be surprising if we see him at all in the preseason. Hopkins is a clear first round pick in all formats and is capable of finishing as the overall WR1 based on what he's shown in the past in this Houston offense.
Rumors that Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones might hold out have turned out to not be true, as Jones has reported to training camp. Jones and the team will continue to talk about a long-term extension for the wideout, but it doesn't look like there's any danger of Jones missing time or getting behind on his conditioning. He remains one of the top wide receivers in fantasy football and should be a first round pick in all formats.
Houston Texans tight end Jordan Thomas recently suggested that Houston will use a committee approach at tight end with Thomas, Jordan Akins, and rookie Kahale Warring, but Thomas is expected to be the leader of that committee and the player most likely to be a weapon in Houston's passing game. Thomas caught four touchdowns last season, but he saw his snap percentage fade as the season went along. Even if Thomas gets the most snaps, quarterback Deshaun Watson doesn't target tight ends at a rate that would make Thomas a sustainable fantasy starter.
Washington Redskins LB Josh Harvey-Clemons is expected to serve as the team's nickel linebacker this year, after bulking up in the offseason.
Washington Redskins LB Mason Foster is expected to be used as a starter at one of the team's inside linebacker spots, although it remains uncertain if he will appear in nickel sets.
Former Washington Redskins LB Preston Smith had attracted interest from the Indianapolis Colts during free agency before he ultimately signed with the Green Bay Packers.
Houston Texans WR Will Fuller (knee) is expected to be completely recovered from his torn anterior cruciate ligament in time to play against the New Orleans Saints in Week 1, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle.
Fantasy Spin: Fuller missed the entirety of spring workouts and figures to be limited at best early in training camp, but he will be roughly 10 months removed from surgery by the time the Texans visit the Saints on Sept. 9. Of course, his biggest challenge will be staying on the field - something he has struggled to do as a pro. He's a high-end WR3 who owners need to have a backup plan for, as he has missed 17 of a possible 48 games in his three-year NFL career.
Kansas City Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill could be traded early next season if a contract extension can't be worked out, according to Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com.
Fantasy Spin: Hill should be headed for another year of WR1 production as one of the main weapons in Kansas City's high-powered offense, but his ceiling could change dramatically if he switches teams. The trade talk is just speculation for now, but it is one more reason to try to acquire Mecole Hardman in keeper formats.
Seattle Seahawks WR Jaron Brown will likely enter the 2019 season as a starter in three-receiver sets, according to Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times.
Seattle Seahawks WR Amara Darboh could 'steal a roster spot' if he can build on his performance from OTAs, according to Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times.
Seattle Seahawks WR David Moore will open the season as a top-three receiver, according to Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times.
Fantasy Spin: Tyler Lockett is likely to be the top target in the passing attack, but the pecking order is wide open from there. With Seattle looking to replace Doug Baldwin, Moore could be worth a flier as a WR5.
Houston Texans RB D'Onta Foreman's performance this year will be a 'season-long audition' to show he deserves to be the lead back in 2020, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle.
Fantasy Spin: Lamar Miller enters 2019 as the starter, but he is also in a contract year. Foreman is a high-end handcuff in redraft leagues for now, but his upside in keeper formats is enormous. By next season, he could be the featured back in a potent offense.