The Miami Dolphins will go into their Sunday night prime time game against the Pittsburgh Steelers with nine players questionable and another doubtful due to injury.
Before the team’s injury report provided the official word, coach Mike McDaniel noted it was leaning in that direction when his Friday morning press conference opened with a question about Emmanuel Ogbah’s health after the standout defensive end missed Wednesday and Thursday practices with a back injury.
“Ogbah’s one of many that we’re going to take up to game time to kind of figure this one out,” said McDaniel, who is looking to get his team off a three-game losing streak. “I couldn’t say, with all certainty, that he’s going to be out or in.”
Beyond Ogbah, who was seen back working with team, albeit gingerly, at Friday drills, Miami has cornerback Xavien Howard (groin), left tackle Terron Armstead (foot), wide receiver Jaylen Waddle (shoulder), defensive tackle Christian Wilkins (hand) among those listed as questionable.
Howard was off the injury report for his groin issues earlier this week, only listed as a limited participant in Wednesday practice for veteran rest, but he reappeared on the injury report for a groin ailment on Friday.
That’s troubling for a Dolphins cornerbacks unit that is already without Byron Jones (PUP list), has Nik Needham on injured reserve for an Achilles tear, Keion Crossen (knee) doubtful to play against the Steelers and Kader Kohou (oblique) questionable. Noah Igbinoghene could likely see an elevated role against Pittsburgh’s receivers, along with Justin Bethel and possibly versatile defensive backs Eric Rowe and Elijah Campbell.
McDaniel said Friday the Dolphins, who have not signed a free agent cornerback, have enough on the roster at the moment with their internal options but noted the team is close to the brink.
Also questionable for Sunday night are tight end Durham Smythe (hamstring), tackle Greg Little (Achilles) and quarterback Skylar Thompson (right thumb).
“There’s a lot of strong contributors that, in this portion of the year, are getting nicked,” McDaniel said. “It’s hard to even have a plan for who you’re going to keep active and inactive. … They’re all working really hard to be with their team at this juncture.”
On Friday, Armstead and Crossen did not participate in team drills while the rest who are questionable were limited.
Armstead’s status still appears encouraging for Sunday, though, after he practiced for the first time in more than a month Thursday.
“I feel pretty good about his availability for Sunday, but unfortunately, I don’t feel 100 percent on it,” McDaniel said. “I feel more comfortable than the last month of the season, for sure, considering that was the first, that was the most he’s been able to practice since, really, the Patriots game [Sept. 11], which is incredibly challenging.”
The Dolphins have struggled with Little and Brandon Shell playing the two tackle spots while Armstead missed last Sunday’s loss to the Minnesota Vikings and most of the previous week’s loss at the New York Jets and right tackle Austin Jackson has been on injured reserve with an ankle injury.
Jackson, who returned to practice on Oct. 12 while still on IR, missed a fourth consecutive practice Friday.
“It wasn’t a setback,” McDaniel said. “We were actually preventing any setback. We felt like the best thing to do was not put him in those situations until it was a little bit closer. He’s still very much involved, and we like how he’s progressing, but that was a little proactive, try to avoid a setback.”
Will he be activated within the 21-day window the Dolphins have from his first practice back?
McDaniel channeled Socrates in his response.
“The only thing that he knows is that he knows nothing,” McDaniel said. “To say absolutes, you don’t — I feel good that he’s going to be able to contribute sooner than later.”
McDaniel indicated that, beyond merely returning starting tackles to health, changes on the offensive line are always in play, like with all positions.
“Rest assured, we challenge the lineup each and every week because that’s a principle of, really, how we want to run a team where you’re not gifted anything and guys are able to either earn or keep their jobs on the field,” he said.
Flores not out for revenge
Ex-Dolphins coach Brian Flores, now a senior defensive assistant/linebackers coach with the Steelers, is not looking to make Sunday’s meeting with his former employer at Hard Rock Stadium a revenge game for him.
“No, no,” Flores told ESPN in a story published Friday. “That’s not the way I’m looking at it now.”
Flores filed a class-action lawsuit against the NFL, the Dolphins and several other teams alleging racially discriminatory hiring practices across the league. Against the Dolphins, he claimed he was pressured to tank for improved draft status and to tamper for a prominent free agent, which was revealed to be quarterback Tom Brady. An NFL investigation found the tampering allegations to be accurate, penalizing the organization with a loss of draft picks and suspending and fining owner Steve Ross for it.
“I don’t have bad memories of the place,” said Flores, who was fired after compiling a 24-25 record in three years, the last two which were winning seasons. “I have a lot of good memories, but my focus is here right now.”
Ross’ final day of suspension was Monday. He was never banned from attending games through the Dolphins’ first six on the schedule, but he has not been seen at any of Miami’s home or away contests. He was fined $1.5 million.
An attempt was made by South Florida media members to set up a web- or phone-conference interview with Flores this week. As of Friday afternoon, the former Dolphins coach had not been made available.