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Steelers find themselves fighting the injury bug early

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Forget waiting until the release of the league-mandated injury report. Maurkice Pouncey wasn’t even going to delay word of his status in the amount of time it takes to ask a question.

More than three hours before the Pittsburgh Steelers listed him as questionable for Sunday’s home opener against the Seattle Seahawks, Pouncey was much more direct.

“I’m playing this week,” the veteran center said Friday, “so this can be a short interview, honestly.”

“Especially after last week, man. who wants to miss a game?”

Coming off a 33-3 loss at the New England Patriots in their season opener, the Steelers go into the weekend relieved that they should have close to if not all of their roster available to them against Seattle.

Among the seven starters who have missed practice time this week because of injury or illness, only Joe Haden’s health remains in question after the final practice of the week.

Haden joined Pouncey, receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and outside linebacker T.J. Watt as former Pro Bowl players who left last week’s blowout during the fourth quarter because of injury. Watt (hip) and Smith-Schuster (toe) went through relatively full practice weeks without incident, and both said they will play Sunday.

Haden, though, did not practice until Friday because of a shoulder injury for which he received treatment afterward. He is listed as questionable on the injury report.

“It’s feeling better,” Haden said of his left shoulder, which was wrapped during practice. “Hopefully it just continues to get better in the next couple days and hopefully I can go.

“Obviously still feeling a little pain, but it is what it is.”

If Haden cannot play, former first-round pick Artie Burns could serve as one of the Steelers’ two primary outside cornerbacks in a game for the first time since he was demoted last October. A starter for most of the first 2¢ seasons of his career, Burns did not have his fifth-year contract option picked up by the Steelers this spring.

“I’ve been out for a while, so I am definitely looking forward to my opportunity, if I get it,” Burns said.

That’s no sure thing yet, and it might not be until game time that it’s determined if Haden will play. Meanwhile, running back James Conner (illness), strong safety Terrell Edmunds (glute), Smith-Schuster, Watt and free safety Sean Davis are expected to be in the lineup at Heinz Field.

Davis said he practiced fully Friday and will play Sunday after missing the New England game because of an ankle injury suffered late in training camp.

“I’m feeling a lot better,” said Davis, who missed only one game over his first three NFL seasons.

“I had a rough little start to this year but looking forward to putting some consecutive games on tape now, knock on wood. My body should be healed up now, no more injuries, so I am just happy to be back out there with everybody and start getting some Ws now.”

Though the loss of Haden could negate it, Davis’ return to the secondary would be a welcome sight for a Steelers’ defense that allowed passing plays of 58 and 44 yards and seven receptions of at least 20 yards in the 30-point loss to the Patriots.

In Davis’ place was former Alliance of American Football player Kameron Kelly, who started at free safety while making his NFL regular-season debut.

“I am glad that (Davis) is back out there,” Haden said. “He knows the defense very well. He’s always comfortable, so just hearing his voice back there kind of helps because he knows what he’s talking about.”

The only Steeler who definitely won’t play Sunday is special teamer and fullback Roosevelt Nix, who has a knee injury.

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