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Week 15 Patriots vs Steelers: LB Kyle Van Noy and ST Brandon King downgraded to “out”

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New England will miss its best linebacker and a core special teamer tomorrow.

NFL: New England Patriots at Oakland Raiders Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Tomorrow, the New England Patriots will play their highly anticipated matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers – a game that will play a big role in deciding who ultimately gets the number one overall seed in the AFC playoff race. The defending world champions will not be a at full strength as judged by their final injury report of the week.

And after already ruling out defensive tackle Alan Branch yesterday, the team added two more players to the list of absentees today:

#Patriots downgrade LB Kyle Van Noy and DB Brandon King to out for #NEvsPIT.

Both Van Noy and King have been listed as “questionable” yesterday due to calf and hamstring injuries, respectively. With both inactive tomorrow, the Patriots will likely approach the game similarly to last week's contest against the Miami Dolphins in regards to the two positions.

Van Noy will be replaced by a mix of Elandon Roberts, Trevor Reilly and Marquis Flowers and – given the quality of the Steelers' ground game – likely also David Harris. Neither player offers the versatility and quality Van Noy brings to the table, but they all have experience playing in New England's multi-front defensive scheme.

As is the case with Van Noy, replacing King is a team job (especially with Nate Ebner out for the year). Matthew Slater, Jonathan Jones, Brandon Bolden and Johnson Bademosi will all help soften the blow of losing one of the best special teams tacklers on the team: King is tied for third on the squad with seven takedowns in the kicking game.