(Reuters) - The injury-hit Pittsburgh Steelers were dealt a severe blow on Friday when their standout wide receiver Antonio Brown was ruled out of Sunday’s divisional playoff game against the Denver Broncos because of concussion.
Brown, a four-time Pro Bowl selection who has been the NFL’s leading receiver this season, was declared inactive by Pittsburgh before their final practice session of the week.
A full injury report later released by the Steelers also ruled out running back DeAngelo Williams (foot injury) and listed quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (shoulder issues) as questionable.
“We got to the point where we had enough information where we knew he would be unavailable to us so we made the decision,” Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin told reporters about Brown.
“We have been without people before. That is just the nature of this thing. This week will be no different from that perspective.
“That is life. That is this game. I am excited to watch them adjust, adapt and watch the plays come from other places.”
Brown suffered a head injury during the game-turning incident in Pittsburgh’s 18-16 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in their AFC Wild Card matchup on Saturday.
In the dying seconds, the Steelers benefited from a pair of penalties - first on a ferocious late hit to the head by Vontaze Burfict on Brown on an incomplete pass, and another 15-yard penalty on cornerback Adam Jones assessed in the ensuing melee.
That set up a game-winning, 35-yard field goal by Chris Boswell on the next play with 14 seconds left.
Twice All-Pro Brown, who had 136 receptions for 1,834 yards and 10 touchdowns during the regular season, will be sorely missed on Sunday.
“You can never just plug someone in for A.B. because A.B. is pretty special,” Roethlisberger said earlier this week.
Tomlin was happy with Roethlisberger’s performance during Friday’s practice, despite the quarterback’s race to heal a sprained joint and torn ligaments in his throwing shoulder.
“He did everything we asked him to do,” said Tomlin. “I was very specific about what I asked him to do. I wanted to see a variety of throws. I wanted to see enough, no more.”
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Larry Fine