Every team has to deal with injuries and they all have them to varying degrees and at different or even similar positions.You can’t help but notice that the Pittsburgh Steelers have been plagued by the injury bug really since training camp when rookie David DeCastro went down in Buffalo. What I’m starting to sense with this team though is that they really have bought into the ‘next man up’ mantra.
The Steelers’ winning percentage without Troy Polamalu was in the ballpark of 33% give or take. Now with both Will Allen and an improving Ryan Mundy filling in for him, the secondary has learned to adjust.
Without Rashard Mendenhall, there has been Jonathan Dwyer and without Dwyer there’s Isaac Redman. We saw Marcus Gilbert go down which meant rookie Mike Adams had to start at right tackle. With creative blocking and an improving overall performance from the rook, the Steelers have persevered and have done so successfully.
The Steelers now face a week without Antonio Brown and potentially Chris Rainey as the Chiefs come in Monday night. Brown provides so much in the way of explosiveness on offense and special teams that replacing him is impossible. Emmanuel Sanders will get the nod at the second receiver while Jerricho Cotchery slides into the three spot.
If Rainey can’t go, that means Sanders will need to pull double-duty in the return game too. Replacing Rainey is not easy either as he has more than proven himself as a return man and can make plays out of the back-field as well. Baron Batch is a solid fill-in but has nowhere near the speed and explosion of Rainey.
The simple thing to say is that the Steelers could put the hot dog vendor at wide out and still beat the Chiefs but it just isn’t that easy anymore. This will be a prime-time game and the Chiefs will not want to be embarrassed. They will play hard as they did in a similar situation in KC last season when the Steelers defeated them 13-9.
Still, the Steelers should win over KC and they should also savor the opportunity to see other guys keep the standard where Coach Mike Tomlin thinks it should be. Were any of these injuries season-ending, it might be a different article I’m writing but they are not. Getting your key players healthy is obviously a huge step for any team but getting your reserves to play well and step up in starters’ absences is vital to team success week in and week out.
I’m thrilled the Steelers have these guys in reserve but I’m no hurry to see this pattern continue for this or any other season. Let’s be grateful we have guys that truly savor the opportunity to step up for the Black ‘n Gold. It makes the overall team better for the long haul.