Injuries and player contract issues are a part of life in the NFL and we Steeler fans know all too well how much they can impact a franchise in the regular season. Even the teams with the best depth can be tested for signficant stretches of time and if they aren’t ready, your team suffers. The coaches and front office personnel for the Steelers have an ongoing job of replenishing depth both during camp and in the regular season when they have too. This season has already started out with young players stepping up, some getting injured and others getting an opportunity to shine as a result.
Last season the Steelers had some solid depth in several areas but it ultimately wasn’t enough, especially on the offensive line. This year though the depth is significantly upgraded and it’s already being tested here in training camp and in preseason. Fear not though Steeler faithful, these latest injuries are not the end of the world and things can always get worse. So no jumping off the bridges in Pittsburgh just yet.
David Johnson’s injury is a blow to a guy having a great camp so far but the Steelers are pretty deep at tight end this year behind Heath Miller. Leonard Pope is a solid blocker with decent hands, and Weslye Saunders is just waiting to break out (assuming he makes the roster given that 4 game suspension. Even with DJ not currently on the roster, but likely to return and go on IR, the team is fine at tight end.
John Clay, according to Jim Wexell, Clay is concerned that he has a torn quad, which would end his season. The Steelers placed him on the waived/injured list today. In a similar situation to David Johnson, if Clay clears waivers the team can bring him back if they want and place him on IR for the entire 2012 season. Even in that situation the team has 4 backs that are healthy. Still though to bolster that lineup they signed rookie free agent Jason Ford out of Illinois. So with those 5 players and Rashard Mendenhall likely to be available sometime later in the season, they are still ok here. Granted it’s a very, very young backfield but sooner or later you have to let the young guys go and see if they can handle it. Regardless they aren’t in panic mode with their ball carriers.
Mike Adams and his knee injury is a setback but with the return of Max Starks (came off the PUP list today) he will be able to step in and play week 1. This is the main reason they brought him back to the team again, knowing full well that Adams is the future but Starks is still capable of playing. This injury to Adams isn’t season ending and won’t put his career in doubt but so it sets him back a few weeks, they’ve got options. Those scenarios also include moving Marcus Gilbert to the left side if they need too (if Starks isn’t ready) and playing Ramon Foster at RT for a couple weeks. That’s not the best case option but it is available to them.
Even the Mike Wallace situation, although not injury related, is not a crushing blow to this offense. We’ve been though this countless times here on SteelerAddicts both in the forums and here on the blog, Wallace is an asset (a big one at that) but not a necessity. Todd Haley’s offense doesn’t feature just one player or a unique set of circumstances to flourish. The Steelers have more than enough weapons to be a potent offense both in the short passing game, running game, and down the field on big plays.
If there one possible concern that could linger on and affect the team significantly, it’s James Harrison and that ongoing issue with swelling in his knee. CBS Sports wrote today that Deebo and the Steelers may consider arthroscopic surgery soon to help alleviate the issue before the season starts. Bill Parise, Harrison’s agent added, “With the exception of this little knee thing,James is probably healthier now that he’s been in three years,” said Bill Parise,Harrison’s agent. “He’s extremely fit. He just has to get this irritation behind his knee cap cleared up. That’s what’s causing the swelling,and (the Steelers) just want to get rid of that.
Should that be an issue when the season starts, the team is very thin on the outside right now at linebacker. Jason Worilds is still on the PUP, and even with Lamarr Woodley getting back to form there is little behind them other than rookies. Even with the good camp that Adrian Robinson and Chris Carter are having, they are still rookies so you just never know. The last thing we need is Lawrence Timmons having to come back outside again and disrupting the inside linebackers by his absence. Timmons is a gamer and isn’t a bad outside backer at all but his niche is inside and the team needs him there.
All in all, things aren’t that bad right now and there’s plenty of time for players to get healthy and young one to continue to impress. I’d rather it happen sooner, rather than later though if you ask me.
Other injuries will happen and players will be in and out of the lineup but if the team can manage to start the year with the starters intact, at least for the most part, they’ll be more than capable of contending for the post season and more.