ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) Jeff Heuerman's breakout season came to a premature end Monday with word that he sustained broken ribs and a bruised lung in the Denver Broncos' 24-17 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Heuerman is the third tight end the Broncos have lost this season. Jake Butt (knee) was injured in a special teams practice in September and rookie Troy Fumagalli has missed all season with a sports hernia.
''Heuerman's a big loss,'' coach Vance Joseph said. ''We've lost three guys in that room so far with Butt and Fumagalli and now Jeff. He was having a great year. He's a great leader for that room. So, he'll be missed.''
Joseph also said outside linebacker Shaq Barrett will miss two to four weeks with a hip flexor and cornerback Tramaine Brock is day-to-day with a bruised rib.
Heuerman had two receptions for 44 yards before getting hurt Sunday. For the season, he has 33 receptions for 281 yards, both career highs, and two touchdowns, tying his career best.
Against Houston on Nov. 4, Heuerman set career highs with 10 receptions for 83 yards and a touchdown. That single-day total was higher than each of his season totals of nine catches in 2016 and '17.
A third-round draft pick out of Ohio State in 2015, Heuerman missed his rookie year with a knee injury and came into the 2018 season with just 18 career receptions for 283 yards and four TDs
Heuerman, however, emerged as Case Keenum's primary tight end target after Butt went on IR.
The Broncos will now rely more on fourth-year pro Matt LaCosse, who scored his first career touchdown Sunday.
The other tight end on the roster is Brian Parker, although fellow third-year pro Temarrick Hemingway might get called up from the practice squad.
Barrett's injury means more snaps for former first-round pick Shane Ray and former second-round pick DeMarcus Walker to back up starters Von Miller and Bradley Chubb.
''We've got some options there,'' Joseph said. ''But obviously Shaq's playing some good football. He played, in my opinion, the best yesterday out of all the rushers. So, he's going to be missed. On special teams, also.''
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