CINCINNATI -- All of a sudden, the spotlight on Jeremy Hill has intensified.

With Giovani Bernard slated to miss the first game of his young career Sunday due to injury, the focus in the Cincinnati Bengals' backfield shifts to his rookie replacement.

Joined by backups Cedric Peerman and Rex Burkhead, Hill ought to command his share of carries and passing targets as he steps in for Bernard against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

[+] EnlargeJeremy Hill
John Grieshop/Getty ImagesRookie Jeremy Hill will get his first start Sunday against the Jaguars.
Although Hill already plays regularly, this will be the first start of his career.

So what does Hill give the Bengals?

He's a strong, physical runner who can catch. He was LSU's third-leading receiver last year. He also has comparatively fresh legs after getting outpaced by Bernard on offensive touches to this point, 131-63.

While Bernard may have more opportunities, Hill has still taken advantage of the ones he has received. His 7.0 yards per touch (both receiving and rushing) is better than the 6.1-yard average Bernard has on his rushes and receptions, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Hill technically may be a rookie another three months, but as the season reaches its halfway point, his coaches and teammates no longer consider him as such. He's grown since his arrival six months ago, and has a chance this weekend to take his biggest strides yet.

"They're not rookies anymore," offensive coordinator Hue Jackson said about Hill and fellow first-year player center Russell Bodine. They are the most regular rookie contributors on offense.

"They're expected to make plays. That's what they're here for," Jackson continued. "Whether it's the center or the back or any of our guys, that's the name of the business."

That's also the reason Hill was drafted in the first place. Cincinnati had former back BenJarvus Green-Ellis' succession plans in place and were looking for Hill to factor into them. They wanted to employ a two-man running back rotation with Bernard, but they also wanted to ensure that if they drafted Hill, he would be mature enough to handle situations like this one.

"It's kind of that time of the year where those guys have to put extra onus on some of the little things that may go by just because they're rookies," veteran Pro Bowl offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth said. "As long as they continue to progress and continue to say every week 'I want to go out and be a little better, that's really what the biggest difference is.'"

As he readies for his first start, that's the attitude Hill has tried to exude. He wants people to know that he's confident he can provide a boost in Bernard's absence.

"I'm preparing like I'm the No. 1 guy, like I do every week," Hill said earlier this week. "If you stick to what your coaches are teaching you and you run the ball hard, you should be able to get successful yards. That's what I've been sticking to and it's what I'm going to continue to stick to. I'm just doing my job and doing what the coaches ask me to do and it's been pretty successful so far."
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Three starters for the Baltimore Ravens are listed as questionable, but tight end Owen Daniels is the biggest question mark heading into Sunday night's game at the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Daniels, the second-leading receiver on the Ravens, returned to practice Friday after sitting out the previous day. He missed last Sunday's game after having his knee scoped.

"It'll probably be a game-time [decision] with Owen, realistically," coach John Harbaugh said after Friday's practice.

Defensive end Chris Canty and guard Marshal Yanda are listed as questionable, although both had full participation in Friday's practice. Canty has been sidelined the past four games with an infection in his wrist.

"Overall, I feel good and I feel healthy," Canty. "I think the coaches think I'm coming along nicely, and hopefully I'll have an opportunity to help this team win Sunday."


Out: CB Jimmy Smith (foot, did not practice Friday), WR Michael Campanaro (hamstring, did not practice Friday).

Questionable: DE Canty (wrist, full participation Friday), G Yanda (knee, full participation Friday), TE Daniels (knee, full participation Friday).

Probable: RB Justin Forsett (ankle, full participation Friday), DT Haloti Ngata (shin, full participation Friday), LB Terrell Suggs (neck, full participation Friday), CB Lardarius Webb (not injury related).

A.J. Green questionable for Sunday

October, 31, 2014
Oct 31
CINCINNATI -- All signs point to Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green playing in his first game in a month except for one.

The Cincinnati Bengals' injury report.

On it, he was listed as questionable for Sunday's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The fourth-year receiver practiced all this week in limited participation as he tries returning from the injury to his right big toe that has been problematic all season. He has missed the past three games because of it.

It's possible he misses a fourth straight Sunday ahead of a short turnaround next week with a Thursday night tilt against the AFC North-rival Browns looming. That game has much more significance to Cincinnati's postseason hopes than Sunday's game against the 1-7, non-division Jaguars.

Mohamed Sanu, the receiver charged with replacing Green in the parts of four games Green missed, accounted for more than 31 percent of the Bengals' offensive production in those games. With all the time Green has missed, Sanu is Cincinnati's leading receiver. So there are reasons for the Bengals to believe they will be all right leaving the pass-catching part of their offense in Sanu's hands for one more week.

Aside from being questionable on the injury report, Green hasn't shown any ill effects of the injury in practice. He's still able to cut and run, albeit at slower speeds, much like he did before.

"If everything stays the way it is, he'll play," coach Marvin Lewis said Friday.

We'll keep our eye on Green when the Bengals first hit the field for warm-ups Sunday morning.

In addition to Green, the Bengals' injury report also has running back Giovani Bernard listed out with hip and clavicle injuries. Defensive tackle Brandon Thompson who practiced fully Wednesday and Thursday, is listed as questionable. He didn't practice on Friday, with Lewis saying Thompson was just being rested as the training staff continues to monitor his return.

Here is the Bengals' full injury report:

LB Vontaze Burfict (knee)
RB Giovani Bernard (hip/clavicle)

LB Rey Maualuga (hamstring)
CB Darqueze Dennard (hamstring)
OG Kevin Zeitler (calf)

DT Brandon Thompson (knee)
WR A.J. Green (toe)

DT Domata Peko (toe)
LB Jayson DiManche (shoulder)
DE Carlos Dunlap (illness)
OL Mike Pollak (knee)
CB Terence Newman (back)
OT Andre Smith (knee)
PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers will be close to full strength Sunday when they host the Baltimore Ravens for an 8:30 p.m. ET game.

 Nose tackle Steve McLendon (shoulder) and right tackle Marcus Gilbert (concussion) are expected to return to action on Sunday. Safety Shamarko Thomas (hamstring) is also expected to play after missing the past three games.

Gilbert, who didn’t play in the Steelers’ 51-34 win over the Indianapolis Colts, and McLendon, who has missed the past two games, practiced all week and as listed as probable for Sunday on the team’s final injury report of the week.

Starting free safety Mike Mitchell was also a full participant in the Steelers’ final practice of the week, and he is listed as probable for the Ravens game. Mitchell had been limited in practice on Thursday because of a groin injury.

The only Steelers players who have been ruled out for Sunday are safety Ross Ventrone (hamstring) and cornerback Ike Taylor (forearm).

Taylor practiced all week on a limited basis as he works his way back from a broken forearm.

With Taylor and Ventrone out, here are my projected healthy scratches for Sunday: nose tackle Daniel McCullers, wide receiver Justin Brown, cornerback B.W. Webb, guard Chris Hubbard and quarterback Landry Jones.


Luke Joeckel probable for Sunday

October, 31, 2014
Oct 31
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It looks like the Jacksonville Jaguars will have left tackle Luke Joeckel and cornerback Dwayne Gratz for Sunday's game at Cincinnati.

Joeckel (concussion) and Gratz (groin/elbow) were both listed as probable on Friday's injury report. Joeckel was a full participant in practice while Gratz was limited.

In addition, receivers Allen Hurns (ankle) and Cecil Shorts (groin) also are listed as probable.

Linebacker Dekoda Watson (hamstring) also was limited on Friday and is questionable. Cornerback Will Blackmon (finger) and defensive end Andre Branch (groin) are out.

CINCINNATI -- It was a year ago Friday night that Geno Atkins suffered the injury that ended his 2013 season and began the long road to recovery that only now seems to be ending.

On Halloween Night in Miami Gardens, Florida, mere miles from Atkins' native Pembroke Pines, the Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle tore his ACL while chasing after Dolphins running back Lamar Miller as he cut back into the middle of the field. As Atkins and other Bengals converged for the tackle on the 4-yard gain, he became trapped underneath the pile. He took his helmet off instantly.

Atkins' season was over. Surgery was forthcoming. Only one thought could enter his mind: next year.

Since "next year" began nearly two months ago, Atkins hasn't been the same player he was before the injury. He's been less explosive off the line of scrimmage and hasn't been as productive statistically. His tackle numbers have been slightly down and his sack figures even lower.

But lately, he's given the Bengals a glimmer of hope in his future.

Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said Monday that he thought Atkins played his best game of the season last Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens. He had four tackles, a sack and a forced fumble that came when he broke through the offensive line and forced the ball loose just after the running back had been handed it.

He was looking like the Atkins of old.

The sack was his first fully-credited sack of the season. He had a half-sack the game before against the Colts that was only awarded to him days after the game. One year ago Friday, playing in his ninth game of the 2013 season, Atkins already had six sacks.

It might be quite the endeavor to get Atkins back to where he was, but the Bengals are hoping he can build from his performances the last two weeks.

"He has the quickness and the penetration and the things that Geno does," head coach Marvin Lewis said. "The more opportunity we have to get him into passing situations, the more opportunities of plays he's going to be able to make as a pass-rusher."
The Baltimore Ravens are going to lose consecutive games for the first time this season, according to most of the ESPN prognosticators.

Of the 13 experts, 10 picked the Ravens to lose at the rival Pittsburgh Steelers. The point spread for this game is even. The Ravens are looking for their third season sweep of the Steelers in the 19-year history of the rivalry (they did so in 2006 and 2011).

Here are the official ESPN predictions (with their prediction record for the Ravens in parentheses):

Eric Allen (6-2): Steelers
Mike Golic (6-2): Ravens
Merril Hoge (5-3): Steelers
Ron Jaworski (5-3): Steelers
KC Joyner (7-1): Steelers
Chris Mortensen (5-3): Steelers
Adam Schefter (6-2): Steelers
Mark Schlereth (4-4): Steelers
Seth Wickersham (5-3): Steelers
Tom Jackson (6-2): Ravens
Keyshawn Johnson (5-3): Steelers
Mike Ditka (4-4): Steelers
Cris Carter (6-2): Ravens
The Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers renew one of the NFL’s fiercest rivalries on Sunday night at Heinz Field. Both teams are 5-3 and a half-game out of first place in the AFC North. The Ravens beat the Steelers, 26-6, when the teams met in early September and they will try to sweep their bitter rival for the first time since 2011.

ESPN Ravens reporter Jamison Hensley and ESPN Steelers reporter Scott Brown take a closer look at the 8:30 p.m. ET game.

Brown: Jamison, how will the Ravens compensate for the loss of Jimmy Smith at cornerback and how bad is the timing for the Ravens to face Ben Roethlisberger when they are so thin at cornerback?

Hensley: To characterize losing Smith as “bad timing” is an understatement. It’s atrocious. Smith, who is sidelined with a foot injury, is not only the Ravens’ best cornerback but he’s also among the top five cornerbacks in the NFL. The Ravens have no one who can replace his combination of size, speed, aggressiveness and intelligence. Even the most optimistic supporter of the Ravens couldn’t think Dominique Franks, who was out of football for the first five weeks, can fill the void left by Smith.

The only way the Ravens can lessen the blow is with their pass rush. When Roethlisberger threw 522 yards and six touchdowns, he was hit twice by the Colts. The Ravens’ top three pass-rushers -- Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil and Pernell McPhee -- have combined for 14.5 sacks and 23 quarterback hits. Over the last five meetings with Roethlisberger, the Ravens have sacked him 10 times. If they can put that pressure on Roethlisberger, it will give him less time to find the open receiver.

While a lot of the focus has been on Roethlisberger, how have his weapons improved in the passing game? With the Ravens being without their top cornerback, will it be tough for them to match up with the Steelers?

Brown: The Steelers and Roethlisberger have to be salivating over the prospect of attacking the Ravens’ secondary. No Smith and a defense that is thin at cornerback has to reckon with a receiving corps that has changed considerably since the Ravens soundly beat the Steelers in Baltimore. Justin Brown, who lost a fumble inside the Ravens’ 20-yard line early in the teams’ Sept. 11 game, isn’t even in the picture at wide receiver right now.

Rookie Martavis Bryant, who has been a revelation in his first two NFL games, and reliable veteran Lance Moore will play against the Ravens after not dressing the first time the two AFC North rivals played. Those two along with Markus Wheaton should make the Ravens pay if they focus too much attention to two-time Pro Bowler Antonio Brown. Brown, meanwhile, opens things up for the other receivers, including tight end Heath Miller, who is coming off his third career 100-yard receiving game.

Baltimore ran the ball effectively against the Steelers on Sept. 11 and it looks like Justin Forsett has really emerged for the Ravens. Has he been one of the NFL’s biggest surprises this season and how are the roles defined in the Ravens’ backfield?

Hensley: It would’ve been difficult for anyone to predict this type of production from Forsett. In training camp, he was the No. 4 running back behind Ray Rice, Bernard Pierce and rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro. Halfway through the Ravens’ season, Forsett is fourth in the NFL with 571 rushing yards. The Ravens needed Forsett to step up after Rice was cut and Pierce struggled to stay healthy. What stands out about Forsett is his vision to find the running lanes in the zone blocking scheme and determination to break tackles. The reason the Ravens signed Forsett was his familiarity with Gary Kubiak’s offense after playing in Houston two years ago. He has remained atop the depth chart by averaging 5.5 yards per carry, the third-best average in the league.

Forsett is the primary ball carrier and gets about 70 percent of the snaps. His work could be affected this week by a knee injury that kept him out of Wednesday’s practice. Pierce had been the Ravens’ back when they get in the red zone. But he was a healthy scratch last Sunday after averaging less than three yards per carry in three of five games. So, Taliaferro has become the top backup and scored two red zone touchdowns in Cincinnati.

The run game has been one of the most improved areas on offense, along with the Ravens’ line. Joe Flacco wasn't sacked in the first meeting, but the Steelers were able to get a lot of pressure Sunday on Andrew Luck. Should the Ravens expect a significantly better pass rush on Sunday night?

Brown: That depends on whether the Steelers can get a big lead early against the Ravens. The Steelers’ defense fed off the offense’s fast start Sunday and an early 21-3 lead forced the Colts to throw, throw and throw some more. Indianapolis had just 10 rushes in its 51-34 loss to Pittsburgh and two of those were scrambles by Luck. Making the Colts one-dimensional on offense allowed the Steelers to really go after Luck and they hit him a lot.

The Steelers probably won’t be as fortunate against the Ravens. They struggled to stop the run when the two rivals played earlier this season and teams with zone-blocking schemes have given the Steelers fits. Unless the Steelers jump out to a big lead early for the second consecutive game they will get a steady dose of Forsett and Taliaferro. That alone should temper the pressure they are able to put on Flacco.

Coach John Harbaugh made a comment earlier this week about how the Ravens are comfortable playing at Heinz Field. What did you make of that comment and can it be traced to the Ravens winning in Pittsburgh in 2010, 2011 and 2012?

Hensley: That’s exactly what Harbaugh meant by that comment. He was saying that the Ravens know what it takes to win in Pittsburgh. You can’t blame Harbaugh for taking a confident stance, especially considering the circumstances. It was just a week ago when the Ravens sat atop the AFC North after winning five of their previous six games. Now, after losing in dramatic fashion in Cincinnati, the Ravens could potentially drop to last place with a loss in Pittsburgh. By saying the Ravens are comfortable at Heinz, Harbaugh is telling his players that they can win in Pittsburgh because they’ve done it before.

The Ravens beat the Steelers earlier this season by keeping them out of the end zone. While the Ravens rank second in the league in fewest points allowed, the Steelers defense uncharacteristically ranks 16th in yards allowed and 21st in points given up. Do these numbers truly reflect how the defense is playing?

Brown: Unfortunately for the Steelers, they do. There were questions about the defense, and that was before the Steelers lost starting outside linebacker Jarvis Jones and cornerback Ike Taylor to significant injuries. Cornerback Cortez Allen, whom the Steelers signed to a five-year, $25 million contract right before the start of the regular season, has struggled so much that the fourth-year veteran has been demoted twice in the past two weeks.

The Steelers have also had issues stopping the run and an offense that can stay balanced is going to give them problems. The defense has shown signs of improvement and it has generated consistent pressure on the quarterback as well as takeaways during the Steelers’ two-game winning streak. If that continues against the Ravens the Steelers have a great chance of improving to 7-4 with games against the lowly Jets and the two-win Titans next up on the schedule.

CINCINNATI -- Amid concerns that Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard's string of injuries are a matter of him taking on a more significant workload than before, we turned to ESPN Stats & Information for help comparing his second year to his rookie season.

A quick glance at Bernard's 2014 numbers show that perceptions are meeting reality. He has indeed touched the ball more so far this season than he did at this point last year.

But is that what's causing the injuries? Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson says no.

"I know because of his size and whatnot, people say that, but I don't believe that's the case," Jackson said. "The things where he was nicked up didn't come from taking too much. It just came from somebody tackling him and hitting him in the right spot."

Let's review the three injuries Bernard has suffered in the last three games:
  • Against the Panthers on Oct. 12, Bernard was said to have had a right shoulder injury after taking a hard hit early in the fourth quarter from Carolina linebacker and Cincinnati native Luke Kuechly. Bernard left briefly and ended up returning to finish the overtime game. Although the injury was termed a "shoulder" injury, trainers were seen working on an area near Bernard's shoulder that was closer to his collarbone. He also grabbed that same area as soon as he tried to get up from Kuechly's hit.
  • Against Indianapolis on Oct. 19, Bernard received bruised ribs when he was blindsided by Colts defensive back Vontae Davis on a screen that Indianapolis read before it developed. Two plays later, he was lit up again when he took a shot to his back on a different screen route. After both hits, Bernard bounced back and finished the game.
  • Against Baltimore last week, he didn't return when he suffered a hip injury in the fourth quarter. He hasn't practiced all week and has been listed on the injury report as having hip and clavicle injuries.

Back to Bernard's workload. What about it has increased?

Almost everything.

He has more carries, targets, routes, rushing yards, rushing touchdowns and a higher rushing average than he did after seven games last season. He also has been on the field more. He also has, from a percentage standpoint, slightly more carries between the tackles this season compared to last year.

Does any of it explain Bernard's sudden propensity for injury? At this still fairly early stage of the season, no. Later in the year, though, if these statistical trends keep up and Bernard's production slips, a real case could be made that wear and tear have slowed him down.

For now, perhaps Jackson is right? Maybe Bernard has simply been a victim of good, hard tackles at inopportune times.
BEREA, Ohio -- Most every Football 101 Manual has the chapter: How to beat the Cover 2.

In its most simplistic definition, it's a defense that places two safeties deep in the middle of the field, with a middle linebacker buzzing in front of them and cornerbacks keeping plays in front as well.

The idea: Force teams to take the long route, be patient and play mistake-free.

The manual states that the way to drive a team out of Cover 2 is to run the ball, force the safety to move closer to the line and then throw over him.

[+] EnlargePaul Posluszny
Richard Dole/USA TODAY SportsThe Browns have struggled to run the ball the past two weeks, but it remains a priority for them, especially against Tampa Bay's Cover 2 scheme.
It’s some time-honored traditional thinking that sets up an interesting matchup for the Cleveland Browns Sunday when they play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home.

Bucs coach Lovie Smith is a disciple of Tony Dungy, and Dungy was the master of the Cover 2. The Cover 2 was so identified with Dungy it eventually became known as the Tampa 2. Smith worked under Dungy for years with the Bucs, then took the Tampa 2 to Chicago, and now that he’s coach of the Bucs he has brought it back to Tampa Bay.

Which of course leads to the Browns' running game averaging 54 yards per game the past two weeks, when Oakland and Jacksonville stacked the line, often with an extra safety, to stop the run. Which of course leads to the theory that perhaps this might be a good opportunity for the Browns to get the run game going -- because they’re playing a defense that is set up to keep a safety deep as opposed to close to the line.

Browns Tight end Gary Barndige, who figures to play more if Jordan Cameron is out with a concussion, sort of bought into the theory.

"But any defense anybody plays you can get the running game (going)," he said. "Just as long as everybody is on the details. If everybody is not on the details, it’s hard to get the run going."

Spoken like a veteran who does not want to a) disparage the opposition or b) reveal too much.

Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan echoed Barnidge’s feelings about the details, pointing out the Browns had several runs against Oakland that could have been big gains had the details been heeded.

"I’d say we had about seven of those opportunities," Shanahan said, "but when we did have those opportunities one guy missed. It takes 11 guys to run the ball."

Defending the run and stopping the run is an interesting dynamic. Dan Marino always called it an attitude, and said it required commitment. The Browns have the commitment, but they didn’t necessarily have the production the past two weeks. Against Oakland, though, the Browns kept running, which forced the Raiders to honor play-action.

Because the Browns figure they always need to run, they don’t necessarily see any great advantage playing a Tampa 2 team.

"We’re not going into this game saying, ‘Oh they run the Tampa 2 let’s go run the ball, this is our chance,'" guard John Greco said. "We don’t care if they run goal-line every play, the mindset is what we need to do to run the ball efficiently and effectively."

The Browns also don’t want to assume anything. Tampa Bay has talent on defense. Shanahan called defensive tackle Gerald McCoy "an extreme problem," and lineman Michael Johnson and linebacker Lavonte David are both very good players.

That helps buttress another tenet of the Tampa 2 -- the pass rush is generated from the front four.

"That front’s very dependent on their personnel," coach Mike Pettine said. "And they personnel it very well."

Pettine said the Bucs will mix their defenses more than some Cover 2 teams, showing one coverage and switching to another. He also pointed out Tampa 2 teams are built for that style, so the personnel fits.

"They can sit in lighter spacing and play Cover 2 and keep the safeties deep and still be effective against the run," Pettine said. "Anytime that you can be a defense and play what we would consider 'lighter spacing' and defend the run, that’s advantage you."

Shanahan doesn’t like the numbers produced by the offense the past two games when running the ball, but he’s not alarmed either, because he said it's expected that someone eventually will stop an offense. He also harkened back to something he always said about quarterbacks: NFL defenses eventually take away what you do best, so it’s wise to be ready with something else.

"Eventually, someone’s going to take (the run game) away, and when they do, usually, it opens up a lot of other stuff," Shanahan said, adding: "We want people to feel like they have to commit to stop something, because when they do have to commit to stop something, it makes other stuff easier."
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens have turned the ball over five times the past two weeks, but you probably shouldn't bring that up to offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak.

"You know it's interesting," Kubiak said. "It seems like sometimes, I told [head coach] John [Harbaugh] the other day, you talk about it so much and they don't go away. Sometimes you've got to maybe just not say anything."

In the past two games, the Ravens have watched quarterback Joe Flacco throw four interceptions and Jacoby Jones fumble a punt return. There are only two teams that have turned the ball over more: the New York Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars (six turnovers each).

Overall, the Ravens have turned the ball over 12 times this season, which falls in the middle of the pack. Where the Ravens have excelled is the defense has not allowed teams to convert those mistakes into points. The Ravens have given up 23 points off turnovers, which is the eighth-fewest in the NFL.

When the Ravens win the turnover battle, they are 93-10 (.902) under Harbaugh.

"We've got too good of a football team. If we're protecting the ball, I think we're going to play really well," Kubiak said. "So, it's something that [quarterbacks coach] Rick [Dennison], Joe and I have to do a better job of because we've turned it over four times via the air the last two weeks. That's something we have to get fixed."

Flacco hasn't been intercepted by the Steelers since December 2012. It's a streak that has spanned 14 quarters and 112 pass attempts.
CINCINNATI -- Giovani Bernard might soon miss the first game of his career.

The second-year Cincinnati Bengals running back missed his second straight practice Thursday afternoon. Like Wednesday, he didn't make it on the practice fields while his teammates worked out.

He hasn't been officially ruled out for Sunday's game against Jacksonville, but if Bernard doesn't practice Friday, expect to see him shelved. Very seldom will head coach Marvin Lewis' players play on Sundays without at least practicing on Fridays.

Don't try to convince Bernard's backfield mate that he's done for this weekend, though. Rookie running back Jeremy Hill said Thursday that he anticipated seeing Bernard on the field this weekend.

"Gio will be ready to go. He's a tough guy," Hill said. "I expect him to be out there. If he is, he is. If he's not, he's not. I'm preparing like I'm the No. 1 guy, like I do every week. If I happen to be that, then so be it. If not, I'll continue to do what I've been doing."

Hill would take over as the Bengals' primary running back. Cedric Peerman and Rex Burkhead likely would get carries alongside him.

"I feel good that if it happened that way that [Hill] would go in there and do the job," offensive coordinator Hue Jackson said about Hill possibly having a larger role.

Hill has just 50 carries this season, an average of 7.1 per game. He's rushed for 195 yards and has three touchdowns. Bernard has 446 yards on 109 carries. He also has five rushing scores.

Bernard suffered a hip injury in the fourth quarter of last week's 27-24 win against the Ravens. He left the game after a 4-yard first-down run. He went down rather abruptly before getting rolled over by his tackler from his belly to his back.

In addition to the hip injury, he also has been out this week with an injured clavicle. He hurt a shoulder at the end of an awkward tackle two weeks ago in the overtime tie with the Panthers. Seven days later, he hurt his ribs following a hard shot from Colts cornerback Vontae Davis on a screen pass.

Jackson said he didn't think Bernard's injuries were the result of putting a larger workload on his smaller frame.

"I know because of his size and whatnot people say that, but I don't believe that's the case," Jackson said. "The things where he was nicked up didn't come from taking too much. It just came from somebody tackling him and hitting him in the right spot."

Here is a look at the Bengals' complete Thursday injury report:

LB Vontaze Burfict (knee)

RB Giovani Bernard (hip/clavicle)
LB Rey Maualuga (hamstring)
DT Geno Atkins (veteran's day off)
CB Darqueze Dennard (hamstring)
OG Kevin Zeitler (calf)

DT Domata Peko (toe -- did not practice Wednesday)
WR A.J. Green (toe)
CB Terence Newman (back)
OT Andre Smith (knee)

OL Mike Pollak (knee)
DE Carlos Dunlap (illness)
DT Brandon Thompson (knee)
LB Jayson DiManche (shoulder)
PITTSBURGH -- Steelers right tackle Marcus Gilbert and nose tackle Steve McLendon remain on track to play Sunday night against the visiting Baltimore Ravens.

Each practiced again on Thursday as Gilbert makes his way from a concussion that kept him out of the Steelers’ 51-34 victory over the Indianapolis Colts and McLendon returns from a shoulder injury that has sidelined him for the last two games.

Safety Shamarko Thomas also practiced fully for the second consecutive day, and he is expected to play Sunday after missing the last three games because of a hamstring injury. Safety Ross Ventrone (hamstring) did not practice and he won’t play against the Ravens.

Starting free safety Mike Mitchell (groin) and cornerback Ike Taylor (forearm) were limited in drills. Strong safety Troy Polamalu and defensive end Brett Keisel were each given practice off for the second consecutive day.

In a note not related to injuries, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been voted the FedEx Air Player of the Week after throwing for 522 yards and six touchdowns last Sunday against the Colts.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens' injury list doesn't look as bad as it did one day earlier as four starters returned to practice on Thursday.

 Running back Justin Forsett (ankle), guard Marshal Yanda (knee), defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (shin) and cornerback Lardarius Webb (rest day) all were back on the field in preparation for Sunday night's game at the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Tight end Owen Daniels (knee) did not practice Thursday after being limited Wednesday, but the Ravens typically give Daniels a day off during the week.

The only players who missed practice the past two days were: cornerback Jimmy Smith (foot), linebacker Terrell Suggs (neck) and wide receiver Michael Campanaro (thigh).


Did not practice: WR Michael Campanaro (thigh), TE Owen Daniels (knee), CB Jimmy Smith (foot), LB Terrell Suggs (neck).

Limited participation: RB Justin Forsett (ankle), G Marshal Yanda (knee).

Full participation: DE Chris Canty (wrist), DT Haloti Ngata (shin), CB Lardarius Webb (not injury related).