PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers will have to find a way forward without defensive tackle Cam Heyward and wide receiver Diontae Johnson.
Both are expected to miss several weeks after going down with injuries in a lopsided 30-7 loss to San Francisco on Sunday.
Heyward, a 13-year veteran, will have surgery for a groin injury and is out indefinitely. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin did not put a timeline on Heyward’s absence, saying he’d have a better idea after the surgery.
With Heyward out, Pittsburgh will turn to younger players such as DeMarvin Leal, Isaiahh Loudermilk and rookie Keeanu Benton when the Steelers host Cleveland (1-0) next Monday night.
“Losing Cam is significant but that’s what team is about,” Tomlin said. “Replacing Cam is not a one-man job, it’s a multiple-man job and it’s a coach’s job because it changes schematics when you lose a (capable) player.”
Johnson, the team’s leading receiver each of the past three years, is also expected to miss at least one game with a right hamstring injury. Tomlin said the team is still waiting for the results of an MRI scan before making an estimation on how long they will be without the five-year veteran.
Allen Robinson, acquired by the Steelers in a trade during the offseason, figures to take on a larger role after catching five passes for 64 yards against the 49ers.
“He’s a steady presence,” Tomlin said of Robinson. “He’s a professional, he’s highly competitive.”
Pittsburgh will also likely promote wide receiver Gunner Olszewski to the active roster after he was inactive against San Francisco.
Tight end Pat Freiermuth (chest) and right tackle Chuks Okorafor (concussion protocol) will be limited early in the week, but Tomlin is optimistic they will be available against Cleveland.
The Steelers are smarting after getting drilled by the 49ers, a game in which they allowed 188 yards rushing and didn’t earn a first down until late in the second quarter when they were already trailing by 20 points.
“You’ve got to carry that stench for a while when you have a performance like that,” Tomlin said.
Pittsburgh faces another physical test against the Browns, who pummeled Cincinnati 24-3 by controlling both sides of the line of scrimmage.
“We won’t overreact, we won’t have a knee-jerk reaction but it does (require) our attention and our time,” Tomlin said.
While there were some positives to be taken from the opener, Tomlin isn’t in the mood to make them public.
“We’re not looking to feel good about ourselves,” he said. “We’re looking to get right.”
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