Kevin King has shouldered a heavy load in Green Bay’s secondary. The Packers are hoping he’s ready to handle some more this weekend.
The health of the rookie cornerback’s left shoulder will determine how much of a role he’ll play in Sunday night’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. King, whose issues date to a torn labrum during his freshman year at the University of Washington, was inactive for last week’s loss to Baltimore.
King’s return at Pittsburgh would be huge, since the Steelers’ offense revolves around receiver Antonio Brown, who led the NFL in receptions in 2014 and 2015 and is topping the league again this season.
“He was willing to throw it this week in practice, so that was a big, big change,” cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said of King’s shoulder. “When he has both his arms, he’s played solid. If he doesn’t throw it, I’m going to pull him out of the game. It’s going to be that simple.”
The Packers also could get back safety Morgan Burnett, who has missed four of the last five games, including the last two games with an injured groin.
“I’ll definitely be out there,” he said. “I’m excited. I’m ready to go. I had a good week of practice. So now just keep making those positive steps forward.”
The Packers are 1-3 without Burnett.
“He’s Mr. Steady for us,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. “It’ll be good, hopefully, to get him back. He’s been practicing, and I think feels confident. He brings a lot of confidence to the secondary.”
King, Burnett and outside linebacker Clay Matthews (groin) are questionable for Sunday.
King and Burnett fully participated during Thursday’s practice and would have done so again on Friday had the team practiced, so it appears likely they’ll be back in the lineup.
Matthews and defensive tackle Kenny Clark (ankle) didn’t practice all week. Matthews said he’ll be a game-time decision; Clark is doubtful.
The Packers have decent depth at outside linebacker with starter Nick Perry, veteran Ahmad Brooks, second-year player Kyler Fackrell and rookie Vince Biegel. The situation on the defensive line could be a bigger issue against Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell, who leads the NFL in rushing. Clark and Mike Daniels had been driving forces behind the Packers’ vastly improved run defense the past three games. Veteran Quinton Dial, second-year player Dean Lowry and rookie Montravius Adams will have to pick up the slack.
“We’ve got good players,” defensive line coach Mike Trgovac said. “I think Montravius has really in the last month made really good improvement. He’s been working his butt off. Quinton is a good football player. Mike is, Dean is. We’ll battle in there. We can’t worry about it.”
Bell and Brown will be double-trouble for a Packers defense that is No. 18 in points allowed. They are on pace to form the third tandem in the Super Bowl era to lead the league in rushing and receiving.
“It’s a lot of offense,” Capers said.
The Packers have injury concerns on offense, too. For the second consecutive week, it appears they’ll be without their top two running backs. Rookie Aaron Jones (knee) is out and Ty Montgomery (ribs) is doubtful.
“Obviously, if he doesn’t practice tomorrow, he won’t be available,” coach Mike McCarthy said Montgomery.
In their place, rookies Jamaal Williams and Devante Mays will have to carry the load. Mays, playing his first snaps on offense vs. Baltimore, fumbled on each of his first two carries.
“I’ve just got to show them that they can count on me,” Mays said. “I know that they were counting on me, and I didn’t step up like I wanted to. This game, I’m going to do a better job of that.”
Center Corey Linsley (back) is questionable, as well, but said he “for sure” would play.