Decimated by injuries, Bills defense trying to regroup

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The way Chris Kelsay sees it, things can't get much worse for a banged-up Buffalo defense.

Buffalo is down five players due to injury, and another because of a league suspension, but Kelsay remains confident the unit can overcome the adversity when the Bills visit Pittsburgh to play the Steelers on Sunday.

"It's been disappointing, but in this league there's only one thing that counts, and that's playing hard and getting wins," Kelsay said after Wednesday's practice. "We have to continue to plug away and move forward. There's nothing you can do other than that."

Over the last three days the Bills have had to overhaul their roster multiple times because of the losses. Since their last-second, season-opening loss to Denver, they've put two players - tight end Kevin Everett (spinal cord) and safety Ko Simpson (broken ankle) - on season-ending injured reserve, signed four more, and released defensive end Eric Powell.

The moves come on the heels of injuries sustained by linebacker Keith Ellison (high ankle sprain), replacement Coy Wire (sprained knee), and cornerback Jason Webster (broken forearm). All three are out indefinitely, while backup defensive end Ryan Denney is lost until at least mid-October after breaking his foot in the preseason.

Defensive end Anthony Hargrove will miss his second game Sunday because of a four-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

"Missing those guys is big, and we will miss those guys, but you can't worry about it," Kelsay said.

Linebacker John DiGiorgio, cornerback Ashton Youboty and free safety Jim Leonhard are all expected to start against the Steelers. DiGiorgio will be making his first career NFL start, while Leonhard and Youboty have just one each.

"It's tough when you have that many guys down," said Leonhard, who recorded his first career interception against Denver after stepping in when Simpson broke his ankle in the first half. "We have a bunch of fighters and we'll let the chips fall where they may."

Safety Bryan Scott and defensive end Copeland Bryan were both signed on Wednesday to shore up the decimated defensive unit. Scott spent the past four seasons in Atlanta and New Orleans, and started 35 of his 56 games. Bryan was signed off Chicago's practice squad.

Making matters worse for the depleted Bills will be Pittsburgh's offense, which put up 37 points in a season-opening win over Cleveland. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger passed for four touchdowns, and running back Willie Parker rushed for 109 yards in the dominating win.

Considering that Denver victimized Buffalo's defense for a whopping 470 yards, the challenge becomes that much more daunting.

"We have our work cut out for us," coach Dick Jauron said. "We're concerned about our level of play. We have to improve no matter who is on the field, but the replacements have been there for us and have performed pretty well when they went in last week."

Meanwhile, rookie running back Marshawn Lynch did not practice on Wednesday because of what Jauron said was flu-like symptoms. Receiver Josh Reed also did not practice because of a left thigh contusion. Jauron is optimistic both players will be ready on Sunday.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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