Solder ready for tough task in Indy DEs

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Solder ready for tough task in Indy DEs

FOXBORO -- Nate Solder has been watching Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney since middle school, admiring Freeney's ability to blow past offensive linemen and sack quarterbacks. Now, ten years into Freeney's career, he's still one of the most feared defensive ends in football, and Solder may be charged with stopping him.

"There's so many guys I watched (growing up) and he's one of them," Solder said. "He's a guy that's been doing a lot of great things for a long time."

For Solder, there will be no time Sunday to admire Freeney the way he did as a teenager. According to Comcast SportsNet's Mike Giardi, right tackle Sebastian Vollmer will be out for the foreseeable future with a foot injury. It's likely Solder would be the one to replace him.

Whether the rookie first round draft pick faces off with Freeney or the Colts' other Pro Bowl defensive end Robert Mathis, he knows he'll have his work cut out for him.

"They're real professionals," Solder said. "They have a litany of different moves. They play extremely hard. They're gifted athletes. All of the above."

The Patriots have faced a stable of elite pass-rushers this season, including the Chiefs' Tamba Hali, the Cowboys' DeMarcus Ware and the Dolphins' Cameron Wake. Playing against them and studying their moves this season has given Solder a crash course in protecting the quarterback.

Against the best of the best, Solder said good footwork is paramount.

"I think technique is the most important thing, especially against the best ones," Solder said. "You have to be at a high level of technique at all times."

Solder's veteran teammates have helped teach him the other aspects of the game to prepare him for games like Sunday's.

"All the O-line has been helping me a ton," he said. "The preparation, in-game mentality. All those sort of things are things I've learned from them."

The rookie first round draft pick has shared time with Vollmer at tackle this season, but lately he's been used in other spots, playing as a blocking tight end as well as a fullback. Those spots weren't totally foreign to him as he spent time at the University of Colorado as a tight end, at times motioning in the backfield or lead-blocking for a running back.

"A lot of it carries over and that's kind of what I did in college too," Solder said. "A lot of it is muscle memory, and I remember it. But yeah it's not the same, obviously. I'd say I'm more comfortable on the line."

Blocking Freeney or Mathis should be anything but comfortable. Solder, if called upon, will likely have help from tight ends and running backs, but even so, he knows Indy's D-ends pose a challenge.

Will there be a middle school offensive lineman somewhere watching on TV, admiring Solder for how he snuffs out the Colts' studs? Maybe. Maybe not. But if Solder can keep Tom Brady upright -- for the most part -- and the Colts stay winless, the Patriots would take it.

Patriots-Steelers injury report: Seven Pats listed as questionable

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Patriots-Steelers injury report: Seven Pats listed as questionable

FOXBORO -- The Patriots will head into Sunday's AFC title game with seven players listed as questionable, including three receivers. 

Danny Amendola, Malcolm Mitchell and Chris Hogan have all been limited in practices this week due to their injuries. Amendola has been dealing with an ankle issue since a Week 13 win over the Rams, while Mitchell has not played since injuring his knee in Week 16 against the Jets. Hogan suffered a thigh injury against the Texans and left the game in the third quarter.

Both Hogan and Mitchell indicated this week that they were moving in the right direction in terms of their recoveries. One would think that the Patriots would need at least one, if not both, to help stress the back end of the Steelers secondary this weekend.

Hogan has been the team's most consistent down-the-field threat this season, averaging a whopping 17.9 yards per catch during the regular season. Against the Texans, before his injury, he reeled in four passes for 95 yards. 

Mitchell, meanwhile, had a very productive second half of his rookie season before he was hurt. He compiled 25 catches for 306 yards between Weeks 11 and 16, establishing himself as one of Tom Brady's go-to targets. 

The overall health of the Patriots receiving corps -- which will also include Julian Edelman and Michael Floyd -- will bear watching when the Patriots and Steelers kick off in two days.

The injury report for Sunday's Patriots-Steelers game:

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

QUESTIONABLE
WR Danny Amendola (ankle)
TE Martellus Bennett (knee)
RB Brandon Bolden (knee)
LB Dont'a Hightower (shoulder)
WR Chris Hogan (thigh)
WR Malcolm Mitchell (knee)
DL Jabaal Sheard (knee)

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

QUESTIONABLE
TE Ladarius Green (concussion/illness)
LB James Harrison (shoulder/triceps)
RB Fitzgerald Toussaint (concussion)

NOT LISTED
RB Le'Veon Bell (not injury related)
K Chris Boswell (illness)
LB Anthony Chickillo (ankle)
S Sean Davis (shoulder)
C B.J. Finney (illness)
WR Darrius Heyward-Bay (illness)
DE Ricardo Mathews (ankle)
QB Zach Mettenberger (illness)
S Michael Mitchell (not injury related)
QB Ben Roethlisberger (not injury related)
LB Vince Williams (shoulder)