The Tennessee Titans will be without defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth and defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch for the remainder of the regular season, but should have both players back for the playoffs.
Haynesworth suffered a sprained MCL in his left knee toward the end of Sunday’s 13-12 loss to the Houston Texans and had to be helped off the field.
Vanden Bosch, bothered with a groin injury since Oct. 5 against Baltimore, was seen by a specialist on Monday after reinjuring the groin last week against Cleveland and will undergo a minor surgical procedure to correct a problem with a muscle, but should also be ready for the postseason.
The Titans have clinched a first-round bye with their 12-2 record and would not play until the weekend of Jan. 10-11 in the postseason.
That said, Tennessee faces the Pittsburgh Steelers (11-3) Sunday at LP Field with home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs hanging in the balance for the winner of that game, and will be without its top two defensive linemen.
“We just completed tests on both Kyle and Albert, and I look at this as good news. We’re expected to have them both back for the playoffs,” Titans coach Jeff Fisher said Monday. “We were all very concerned about Albert’s condition after the game. He has an MCL sprain, and that oftentimes is 10 days to two weeks.”
As for Vanden Bosch, Fisher said the injury from the Browns came in a similar area to the original injury and that the surgical procedure was necessary to fix the problem and allow him to return for the AFC Divisional Playoffs.
“Kyle will be undergoing minor surgery to repair a muscle, and the specialist has every reason to think that he also will be back for the playoffs,” Fisher said. “It’s not an on-going thing. We evaluated him last week, and felt it was best if he go out and see a specialist. It’s the same region [as the first injury], but a new injury.”
The Titans will be without their two Pro Bowl stars and catch the Steelers at a time when they are playing their best football of the season. The Steelers have won five in a row, including fourth-quarter comebacks to defeat fellow playoff contenders Dallas and Baltimore in the past two weeks. The Steelers clinched the AFC North with their 13-9 victory over the Ravens on Sunday.
Despite the upset by the Texans, the Titans are still in control of their playoff fate, Fisher reminded on Monday.
“If you had told me when the season started that we could beat the Steelers in the second to last game of the season for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, we’d have taken that,” Fisher said. “The issue is that we let this one slip away. But there’s really no difference the start of [Sunday’s] game and where we are now. We need to beat Pittsburgh.”
The loss of Vanden Bosch and Haynesworth, combined with the four-game suspension of Kevin Vickerson before the Cleveland game, leaves Tennessee short-handed on the defensive line, with four ends and just two healthy tackles, though end Dave Ball can fill in inside if in a pinch.
Last year, the Titans suffered when Haynesworth was out of the lineup for three games with a hamstring injury. Tennessee lost all three games and had to rally to win it final three games to earn a wild-card playoff spot.
There is the likelihood that the Titans might elevate Amon Gordon from the practice squad to help with depth while Vanden Bosch and Haynesworth are sidelined. If the Titans need a roster spot, they could move cornerback Cary Williams to injured reserve, if the calf injury he suffered in his first game Sunday is significant.
“There is always that possibility, but we’ve got depth here and the younger guys are playing well,” Fisher said.
NO CHANGES: Fisher indicated he would not change anything from his decision to go for it on fourth-and-3 from the Texans 32-yard line with two minutes to play in Sunday’s game.
A fourth-down pass from Kerry Collins to Justin McCareins was overthrown and the Texans took over on downs and ran out the clock.
Fisher reiterated that kicker Rob Bironas was out of his range, trying a 50-yard kick against the wind.
“Rob’s limit was the 28-yard line. Anything outside that, he was barely making them from the 28. The line of scrimmage was the 32,” Fisher said. “I’m not going to put Rob in that position to fail. Anytime wind is involved, I know what his distance is going to be, and where the outer limits of the distance is. If I’m going to ask him to go out there, then it’s on me if it’s well beyond that. But this is a different situation. It was at the end of the game. We had timeouts left. We had opportunities to make plays, and we didn’t. We also had a four-minute defense that failed.”
Fisher also said the fact that Collins completed on 15 of 33 passes for 181 yards was a stat shared by both he and the receivers, not just the quarterback.
“It was not just all the quarterback. I think it was a combination of things. We had many opportunities on the field to make plays,” he said. “Everybody was taking turns offensively [messing up].”