The biggest injury, both figuratively and literally, is starting right tackle Khalif Barnes, who will not play Sunday due to a groin injury that forced him to leave last week’s game with the Miami Dolphins. An already struggling offensive line will need to come together and protect Carson Palmer a lot better especially against the Steelers’ talented front seven. Willie Smith will take over at the tackle position and Pittsburgh will most likely attack that side of the offensive line early and often when bringing pressure.
The other person who is officially listed as out is starting cornerback Shawntae Spencer. This is a devastating blow for Oakland which is already without its other Week 1 starting cornerback, Ron Bartell. With a secondary decimated by injuries, Oakland needs its two starting safeties, Tyvon Branch and Michael Huff, to step up and lead this defensive backfield. It would also help if Phillip Adams , Joselio Hanson and Pat Lee step up and are able to shut down Pittsburgh’s two top receivers on the outside.
Mike Goodson is listed as questionable after missing Friday’s practice with a hamstring injury. The running back has been a good change of pace back in the first two weeks and made the only big play of last week’s loss. If he can’t go, it will put more pressure on Darren McFadden and Taiwan Jones to carry the running game and make a difference in the passing game out of the backfield.
The final intriguing name on the injury report is someone who will make his NFL debut Sunday. Juron Criner missed the last two games with an ankle injury and was able to go through a full week of practice at full strength. The 2012 fifth-round draft pick is six-foot, three-inches and 221 pounds, a large target for Palmer to hit. Adding another weapon for Palmer in the passing game is never a bad thing and the more Palmer can spread the ball around, the more likely Palmer can find a mismatch to exploit.