Nose tackle has knee ligament damage
As expected, the Pittsburgh Steelers have lost Pro Bowl nose tackle Casey Hampton for the balance of the season, with the fourth-year veteran having sustained ligament damage to his right knee in Sunday's victory over the Dallas Cowboys.
2004 SEASON STATISTICS Tot Ast Solo FF Sack Int 15 9 6 0 0 0
Team officials have not yet specified which ligaments were involved, but Hampton will require surgery and likely will be placed on injured reserve.
The Steelers have not indicated the severity of a right knee injury to starting right cornerback Chad Scott, also suffered in the game at Texas Stadium, and his status remains uncertain.
Pittsburgh has a bye this week and will resume play Oct. 31, when it hosts New England.
The loss of Hampton, who is said to have been distraught after the Steelers' fourth straight victory, is a major setback for a defense that ranks No. 5 in the NFL statistically. Pittsburgh is already playing without starting inside linebacker Kendrell Bell, who has suffered a series of injuries and who recently underwent hernia surgery.
The team's first-round choice in the 2001 draft, Hampton is a key to the team's defense versus the run, a player whose value typically is not indicated by total tackles but who anchors the interior of the Pittsburgh 3-4 front. The former University of Texas standout started the first six games of the season and had 21 tackles.
Pittsburgh will elevate relatively inexperienced Chris Hoke, who before this season had played in zero games in three years, to the starting job. Hoke improved dramatically in camp this summer and claimed the backup job.
Club officials have contacted two former Steelers defensive linemen, Oliver Gibson and Kendrick Clancy, as possible replacements for Hampton on the roster. Already released by three teams since the end of the 2003 season, Gibson, who played four years with the Steelers (1995-98), will visit with Pittsburgh officials Tuesday.
Clancy lost his backup spot to Hoke this summer, was released and has not been able to find work elsewhere.
It remains unclear how much time Scott will miss. His starting spot probably will be filled by rookie Ricardo Colclough, the team's second-round draft choice.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here .
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