Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin will never admit it but the fact is that injuries do affect the outcome of games. I understand you don’t want to pass the buck or place blame on anyone but yourselves but seriously it’s ok to admit that injuries do take their toll. You certainly don’t abstain yourself as a coach, your staff, or players from responsibility but admitting that injuries hurt your team is simply just part of the equation.
Perhaps it’s because you then open yourself up to the criticism that you did not prepare your team well enough. Maybe you didn’t draft well enough, or maybe the guys you counted on the come through just didn’t have enough in crunch time to handle their responsibility.
It would be hard to blame them when you look at the number of players that Pittsburgh lost either for the entire season or for significant chunks of games.
-Aaron Smith lost for year since week 4.
-James Harrison missed 4 games with the orbital bone injury. Missed 1 game on suspension.
-Lamarr Woodley missed the remaining 8 games of the season since he injured his hamstring against the Patriots in week. Even though he returned on a limited basis against the 49ers and Broncos games he was rendered largely ineffective splitting time with Jason Worilds.
-Ryan Clark – Missed the Broncos game due to his sickle cell trait. Nobody can certainly blame him for that or Mike Tomlin for keeping him out.
-Emmanuel Sanders – missed time not only in preseason but significant amounts of time with knee and foot injuries.
-Rashard Mendenhall – Tore ACL in the final regular season game.
-Ben Roethlisberger – We all know the story of Ben, the thumb injuries, the broken foot, high ankle sprain.
-Casey Hampton – ACL injury in wildcard game in Denver.
-Chris Hoke - stinger suffered vs Jaguars, ultimately on injured reserve.
-Brett Keisel – groin injury in wildcard game in Denver
-Max Starks – ACL injury in wildcard game vs Denver.
-Maurkice Pouncey – high ankle sprain in the preseason game vs the Falcons. Was n problematic causing him to miss games or parts of games for the length of the season, ultimately taking him out of action for the post season.
-Marcus Gilbert, Doug Legursky, Chris Kemoeatu all missed atleast 2 games due to injury or in Big Juicy’s case both injury and poor play.
-Mewelde Moore – Knee and ankle injuries caused him to miss 5 games, including the final 3 of the season.
-Daniel Sepulveda – his chronic knee issues again cost him a full season. Arguably Jeremy Kapinos filled in nicely but still it’s a change that you hate to see happen.
When you have that much turnover, that much inconsistency on the offensive line, the linebackers, Quarterback, any key positions on the team you are going to have issues. Backup players are just that, backups. They are supposed to live up to the standard but no matter how much you want preach that they need to do so, sometimes you just don’t have the horses to pull it off.
No team in the NFL has perfect depth at every position. You strive to have a complete team full of players who can step in and not miss a beat. Show me an NFL team that has that every year and I’ll show you somebody’s fantasy league. In the world of free agency and the salary cap, it’s nearly impossible to have a roster full of players with no drop off in performance from one level to the next.
Still though the Steelers have major issues to deal with this offseason and tough decisions to make. If you’re going to preach “the standard is the standard” then you better build your team as such as best you can. Forget about allegiances to older veterans, trying to get one more year out of a guy so you can address another area of need, or keeping project players around that aren’t panning out.
In the end, injuries aren’t the only reason the Steelers exited early from the post season, that’s painfully obvious. We’ll dive into all this and more as the offseason continues because our standard is to discect the standard and find out why the standard isn’t always up to the standard.