By Abraham Gutierrez

Even though the (4-3) Oakland Raiders have been playing their best football in decades, going into Heinz Field to face the (4-4) Pittsburgh Steelers is sure to be their toughest test to date, both mentally and physically. Luckily, Jack Del Rio will have as close to a full deck of cards as it gets in the National Football League, as only one player has been ruled out of their Week 9 showdown in the Steel City.

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On Friday, Del Rio and the Raiders staff revealed that outside linebacker (LB) Neiron Ball would miss his second straight game due to a knee injury. The rookie out of the University of Florida sprained his knee in the second quarter of the Raiders 37-29 win over the San Diego Chargers and has not been able to practice since. He is expected to make his return at the Tennessee Titans on November 29 (Week 12).

As stated above, Del Rio will have almost an entire roster at his disposal against a Steelers team looking to avenge two straight losses to the Silver and Black. That said, there’s one more player that’s also in danger of missing this pivotal Week 9 matchup due to injury.

After being listed as having had limited participation in practice, cornerback T.J. Carrie’s status is questionable for Sunday. This is the same shoulder injury that caused the second-year pro out of Ohio University to sit out last week’s 34-20 win over the New York Jets.

Carrie is currently eighth on the team in tackles (23), and is the Raiders leading punt returner with 17 returns for an average of 6.8 yards per touch, including a season-long of 22 yards. Walt Powell is second on the depth-chart, but rookie sensation Amari Cooper is also available for Del Rio this week on the road.

The fact that the remaining four players listed in this week’s injury report are all probable, certainly doesn’t hurt Oakland’s chances of pulling off the upset. There are two names in particular that Raider Nation must be in the look out for, as they’re both key components to this ever-improving defense.

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Much like it’s been all season, free safety Charles Woodson is once again listed in this week’s injury report – yes, this is the same shoulder injury he suffered in Week 1. Nevertheless, as she’s shown all year, No. 24 should have no problem taking the field, and perhaps even add to his league-leading 5 interceptions.

The other hobbled Raider worth noting is none other than defensive end, Khalil Mack. After having had only limited participation in practice, the reigning ESPN NFL Rookie Of The Year is listed as probable due to a hamstring. There’s no question his ability to stay on the field will be key in the Raiders’ chances to improve their win streak to three games.

Oakland Raiders Injury Report & Game Statuses (Week 9)

Probable:
(S) Charles Woodson (Shoulder) – Full Participation in Practice
(S) Larry Asante (Knee) – Limited Participation in Practice
(DE) Khalil Mack (Hamstring) – Limited Participation in Practice
(S) Taylor Mays (Ankle) – Full Participation in Practice

Questionable:
(CB) T.J. Carrie (Shoulder) – Limited Participation in Practice

Out:
(LB) Neiron Ball (Knee) – Did Not Participate In Practice

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Abe Gutierrez’s (Twitter: @GutierrezAbe) passion led him to ditch law school journey in order to launch his own publishing company. His expertise make him a valued addition to Examiner.com, AXS.com and the CBS-Sports family. Some of his work can be found on CBS-Miami (Dolphins), CBS-LosAngeles (Chargers), CBS-BayArea (Raiders), CBS-NewYork (NY Jets), CBS-TampaBay (Buccaneers), AXS.com, aExaminer.com and other online publications.