The Pittsburgh Steelers have been playing with fire since the dawn of time it seems, when it comes to the offensive line. How many more injuries will it take before the coaching staff finally decides that carrying at least 8 active linemen on game day is the way to go? Would it be so bad to deactivate an extra defensive back? Well ok, based on their play Thursday night, maybe so, but you can probably see where I’m going with this.
Each week Mike Tomlin decides, normally, to dress 7 players on this unit despite the multitude of injuries that occur on a regular basis. That way of thinking has been a topic of debate for years among fans around the water cooler and the arm chair quarterbacks everywhere. Perhaps you’ve been in on those conversations; I know I have.
On a night when things weren’t exactly going as planned, the injuries mounted again for the big hogs up front and by the end of the game there was not a healthy body to be found in reserve. It started with Maurkice Pouncey getting his leg rolled up on by Marcus Gilbert on the Steelers first drive of the game; and did not return. Enter in utility lineman Doug Legursky who would finish out the game snapping the ball to Ben. Then Gilbert ends up with a leg injury later in the half and rookie Mike Adams finished out the game at RT.
At that point there was nobody left should another injury happen. For what it’s worth, they would then use someone like Heath Miller or Leonard Pope as a backup tackle most likely. That scenario nearly presented itself in epic fashion when Ramon Foster limped off the field, but thankfully returned after a play review gave the Steelers trainers time to tape him up and allow Foster to tough out the rest of the game.
One can argue that rookie Kelvin Beachum may or may not be even be an option worth exploring based on his inexperience but given the alternative Mike Tomlin has to decide how much longer he can go with only 7 guys. Also both John Malecki and Ryan Lee are currently on the practice squad. You could rationalize one or the other being activated instead of or in additional to Kelvin Beachum. That would give the Steelers some additional depth at Guard. All I can say is thank goodness they have a long week to recover because if they had to play again soon they probably couldn’t find 45 healthy players to even field a team. For what it’s worth, Tomlin did mention after the game that had Foster not been able to return, Marcus Gilbert was available in an emergency role. If you think the line had problems with protection last night, imagine if Gilbert were hobbling around out there trying to block a Titans defense that was smelling blood late in the game.
The loss last night cannot be pinned on just injuries to the offensive line, that excuse train has sailed a long time ago. In fact, pinning a loss to injuries should not make you sleep any better in general. Every team plays with them but the Steelers seem to get hit harder than anyone consistently. Is it time to start questioning the conditioning of the players in that group? I would say it’s beyond time to start questioning everything.