FOXBOROUGH — Defensive tackle Tommy Kelly will miss his fourth consecutive game Sunday with a knee injury he suffered against the Bengals in Week 5.
It appeared as though the veteran was on track to return against Pittsburgh when he practiced on Wednesday and Thursday, though the Patriots reported he was limited on both days. But he must have suffered a setback, because not only did Kelly not practice on Friday, the team ruled him out for Sunday.
Three players are questionable, including cornerbacks Aqib Talib (hip) and Kyle Arrington (groin). Talib has not played since suffering the injury in the second half against New Orleans in Week 6, and Arrington aggravated his injury last week against Miami.
Arrington talked Friday, generally a positive sign for a player’s availability. “This week has been day to day; I’m working my hardest to get back out there, so we’ll see how it goes,” he said.
The 27-year-old has never missed a game in his career.
Running back Leon Washington (ankle) is the third player questionable.
Tom Brady is among seven players in the probable category. After announcing Friday morning that Brady had been limited in practice Thursday, not a full participant as the team had initially reported, he was listed as a full participant for Friday.
When his favorite topic, injuries, was broached, Bill Belichick embarked on what for him comes close to a rant, noting at this time of the year, it’s almost impossible to find an NFL player who isn’t hurting in some way.
“We played four preseason games, this is our ninth regular-season game, so we’ve played 13 consecutive weeks, plus two weeks of training camp before that, plus however many practices we’ve had,” Belichick said. “Who do we think that’s playing is 100 percent in that locker room? Let’s list those guys. Who is on that list? I don’t know. It would be a real short one.
“It’s the middle of football season. Everybody on the team that’s playing has got something. Guys on the practice squad have stuff. I’m not saying it makes them doubtful or anything. It’s just playing football and that’s part of it. I don’t think any player in the league that’s played that much football feels 100 percent.
“Name another player in the league that’s as fresh as a daisy in the beginning of November after nine regular-season games and six weeks of training camp, preseason games before that. Who would that be? I mean, if all the guys that didn’t feel 100 percent didn’t practice, we’d probably have two guys out at practice, maybe not even that.”
The Steelers declared starting right guard David DeCastro (ankle) as one of three players out, along with rookie receiver Markus Wheaton (finger) and cornerback Curtis Brown (not injury related).
Six players are listed as probable for Pittsburgh, including quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (not injury related).
Second time around
tackle Isaac Sopoaga became the third defensive lineman from the 2004 rookie class to join the Patriots when the team acquired him via trade this week, joining Vince Wilfork and Kelly.
Belichick said the Patriots had a great deal of interest in Sopoaga, but he was scooped up by the 49ers in the fourth round .
“We talked about taking him and we were going to take him, and we were just a round late. But we’d already taken Vince, obviously,” Belichick said. “But you can never have too many defensive linemen. That was kind of the conversation. He was right there; we were ready to take him. We said, ‘Well, you know, we can get him one round earlier.’
“We’d already taken a couple guys and we probably waited a little bit too long on that one.”
Belichick went on to say that given how Sopoaga’s career has played out, he was quite the fourth-round pick, and he could have gone in the first or second round, in retrospect.
Conversely, Kelly is a player Belichick said he knew little about.
“I think Tommy Kelly was off a lot of people’s radar. I’ve talked to [Oakland’s former senior personnel executive] Mike Lombardi about him because of course he had him out in Oakland,” Belichick said. “He was kind of a guy that really slipped through the cracks. I know when Mike took him out there, he was thinking it was a, ‘We’ll take a shot at him’ kind of thing. I’d say it was a great find by Mike. What a career Tommy has had from being an undrafted guy. He’s had an excellent career.”
Belichick gave the impression that Sopoaga is good to go for Sunday, despite having just three practices under his belt.
“He’s played every game; it’s not like we signed a guy off the street. I think he’s in good condition,” Belichick said. “He just has to get familiar with our terminology and some of the way we play certain blocks or what his responsibilities are on blitzes and that kind of thing.
“He’s a smart football guy and he obviously has a lot of experience. I think he’s doing fine. We have a couple more days, we have to clean up a few things. I think he should, if he continues to progress, I don’t think there’s any reason why he shouldn’t be ready to play.”
Because of high winds, the Patriots practiced inside the Dana-Farber Fieldhouse on Friday, their first indoor practice of the season. Belichick said it was a safety consideration more than a concern in the passing or kicking game, given that team personnel who film practice do so from atop lifts . . . Walt Coleman, who was in charge for the infamous Tuck Rule game, will be the referee for Sunday’s game, according to FootballZebras.com. Coleman also worked the Patriots-Falcons game in Week 4.