The Steelers May Need to Start the O-Line Shuffle This Week


Oct 11, 2012; Nashville, TN, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert (77) limps off the field with a knee during the first half against the Tennessee Titans. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-US PRESSWIRE

What year is it? I’m confused. The Steelers offensive front line is banged up again and the season isn’t even half over. This seems to happen every year. Oh, don’t worry, they will get healthy during the bye week…oh, yeah, that’s over already. Do the Steelers have enough depth to cover the injuries?

In my blog on Sept 25th, I was concerned that even though everyone was starting the year out healthy, most of the offensive line starters had injury histories. The Oct 11th game against Tennessee had a startling number of injuries and there were questions about whether the Steelers eight offensive linemen where going to be enough to get through the game. Perhaps that is the effect of playing this extremely physical game on only three days’ rest. After the season, it will be interesting to see the statistics on Thursday night injuries. On the good side for the Steelers, there was a longer recovery time until the next game. It isn’t a bye week, but it is close.

So, the offensive line begins to shuffle around players due to injuries. In order to avoid irate tweets from any Steeler’s players who may feel picked on I want to stress this is not criticism on any one player. I am not saying anyone is doing anything less than their best. I’m just saying that once you are injured during this short football season, it’s tough to fully recover during the season. You are either 100% or your ability is comprised. Duh, thanks Capt. Obvious, right? What I mean is: when a player has an injury, their strength and conditioning immediately suffer – despite the player’s best efforts to stay conditioned. Additionally, the possibility of reinjury remains a concern. Injuries are a part of football, but so is preparation and planning for contingencies. Injuries start to take a mental toll on the other players too.

Oct 11, 2012; Nashville, TN, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey (53) is injured during the first half against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-US PRESSWIRE

One of the more concerning injuries is Maurkice Pouncey’s knee injury. He had a history of ankle injuries and had surgery this past off season. Hopefully this knee injury will not become a nagging injury for him, but it’s hard to expect it not to bother him with the weekly strain of the game. Pouncey’s tweets indicate that he’s focused on getting back into the game. I’m not knocking Legursky, but Roethlisberger is obviously more in-sync with Pouncey. He participated in a limited practice on Thursday, but I expect the Steelers to err on the side of caution and not put him in a full game. Yet, the need to get back on track is so strong that I could be underestimating Tomlin and his staff. I would hate to see Pouncey re-injure his knee and end up out for the season. Gilbert also has an injured knee and will be out this week. The good news is that the specialists say he won’t need surgery on the tendon. His injury could plague him all season too.

So, I wonder if the remaining offensive linemen will stay healthy. Four offensive lineman were helped off the field during the Titans game. Only Pouncey and Gilbert remain on the injury list, but they are a large part of the starting offense.  Add to that how tough the games are whenever the Steelers play within the division. The game against the Bengals could be just as tough as the game against the Titans. Are the Steelers prepared to shuffle more offensive line players around? How many more can they afford to lose? None. On the good side, the Steelers added an offensive lineman to the practice squad this week. That tells me they aren’t ignoring the potential hole in the offensive line if the injuries continue to mount. Jacques McClendon is in his third year in the league and has only played four games for Indianapolis in 2010. He didn’t see any game time with the Detroit Lions last year. So, it doesn’t sound like the Steelers are expecting McClendon to step in and do great things on Sunday, but it shows they are looking at their depth.

I wonder if I need to invent some new silly ritual, such as running outside and screaming after every offensive drive without an injury. No, that would be too much like the weird “discount double check” guy. Maybe I could hire a witch doctor to do a special dance to protect against further offensive line injuries. No, that probably wouldn’t work either. With my luck the witch doctor would be a fan of another team and curse the Steelers. I guess I’ll stick with holding my breath until the play is over and counting to see if everyone stands up. I think Roethlisberger and the offense are really working well together this year and injuries could affect the continuity they have built during the first 5 games. You know, maybe I’ll cross my fingers AND toes this weekend.