INJURIES MOUNTING UP FOR STEELERS
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Injuries are starting to take their toll on the Pittsburgh Steelers who face a difficult trip to Jacksonville on Sunday night before they can enjoy the comforts of a much-needed bye weekend.
The Steelers may be 3-1 to have a leg up on their AFC North competition - but as first-place teams go, they're in a precarious position.
Franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is nursing a bruised right shoulder, two-time Pro Bowl running back Willie Parker is out with a strained knee and his back-up, first-round pick Rashard Mendenhall, suffered a season-ending injury when he fractured his right shoulder in Monday's 23-20 overtime win over the Baltimore Ravens.
With rushing duties being left to back-up Mewelde Moore - who hasn't had 20 carries in a game since 2005 - the bulk of the Pittsburgh offence will likely be left up to Roethlisberger and his tender throwing arm.
He has not thrown more than 25 passes in a game this year, but with his backfield almost completely depleted, he will likely spend a lot more time in the pocket on Sunday.
Considering the kind of damage he's taken in the past few weeks, that is not a prospect he is likely to take too kindly.
The fifth-year veteran has been sacked 11 times over his past two games, including eight in a 15-6 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles two weeks ago, during which he also injured his right hand.
Another showdown against the Jaguars doesn't bode well, either - in the teams' two meetings last season, Roethlisberger was under heavy pressure throughout and got sacked 11 times combined.
The Steelers have lost each of their past four meetings to the Jaguars, including a first-round play-off defeat in January.
The former AFC Central rivals have met in all but one season since splitting into separate divisions in 2002 and nearly every game has been a dogfight.
Pittsburgh's last victory over Jacksonville was in 2004, when Jeff Reed's 37-yard goal with 18 seconds remaining lifted the Steelers to a 17-16 win.
This year's Jaguars have relied on the radar of their own kicker.
Pegged as potential Super Bowl contenders before the season, they stumbled to an 0-2 start but have been saved by Josh Scobee.
The fifth-year kicker booted game-winning field goals in the final minute each of the past two games.
The Jaguars' highly-touted defence ranks just 24th in the league through four weeks, managing just five sacks and five takeaways, while quarterback David Garrard has already surpassed his 2007 interception total (three) with four picks this season.