Patriots-Steelers practice report: Branch misses second straight day

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FOXBORO -- It looks like the Patriots are going to be down one of their top defensive tackles against one of the best running backs in the league.

Alan Branch did not participate during Patriots practice on Thursday, making it two consecutive absences for the 350-pounder. Branch injured his knee against the Dolphins on Monday night and did not return to the game.

If he can't go against Le'Veon Bell and the Steelers, that might stress the workloads of tackles Lawrence Guy and Malcom Brown. Rookie interior lineman Adam Butler could also be in line for more playing time if Branch is out. 

It might behoove the Patriots to focus in on Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Pittsburgh's passing game. But if Branch is out, the Patriots may have to do some scheming in order to help their banged-up front-seven defend the run. Trey Flowers, Kyle Van Noy, Deatrich Wise, Eric Lee and David Harris were all limited during Thursday's workout.

Also missing from Thursday's session was Johnson Bademosi, who is dealing with an illness. Bademosi was present in the Patriots locker room during the media availability sessions following practice.

Here's Thursday's practice participation/injury report for Sunday's Patriots-Steelers game:

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
DL Alan Branch (knee)
CB Johnson Bademosi (Illness)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
CB Malcolm Butler (ankle)
DL Trey Flowers (ribs)
CB Stephon Gilmore (ankle)
LB David Harris (ankle)
WR Chris Hogan (shoulder)
DB Brandon King (hamstring)
DL Eric Lee (ankle)
WR Matthew Slater (hamstring)
LB Kyle Van Noy (calf)
OT LaAdrian Waddle (ankle)
DL Deatrich Wise Jr. (foot)

FULL PARTICIPATION
QB Tom Brady (Achilles)
WR Brandin Cooks (hand)

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
TE Vance McDonald (shoulder)
CB Coty Sensabaugh (shoulder)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
CB Joe Haden (fibula)
LB Tyler Matakevich (shoulder)
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster (hamstring)
C Maurkice Pouncey (hip)

FULL PARTICIPATION
WR Martavis Bryant (not injury related)
DE Stephon Tuitt (illness)

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