By Jeremy Hritz
The Pittsburgh Steelers have had their fair share of injuries this training camp, but thankfully, the injuries of the severe variety have avoided key starters.
While teams like the Eagles, Packers, and Bears have lost key players to season ending injuries, the Steelers have been fortunate to avoid such bad luck to players in their starting line-up.
But that doesn’t mean the injuries haven’t impacted the Steelers in the 2013 version of Camp Tomlin.
The position that has been bonked the hardest by injuries has been cornerback, with the quartet of Cortez Allen, Curtis Brown, DeMarcus Van Dyke, and Terry Hawthorne all missing time. Allen, who underwent a knee procedure to alleviate some discomfort, is expected to return for the season opener, but he is not getting the repetitions with his teammates on defense to make his transition to starter opposite Ike Taylor a smooth one. While all indications are that he is fine and will not be plagued long term, there is some uncertainty about how effective he will be when he does return, and how long it will take him to regain his pre-injury form.
Brown, who has not lived up to the expectations that were in place for him when he was drafted in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft, had been having an uneven camp before he suffered an ankle injury. With no timetable on his return, the hope that Brown would benefit from extra reps as a result of the bum knee of Allen seems to have been dashed, and it is difficult to foresee his contributions this year going beyond special teams.
As far as Van Dyke is concerned, this was to be his first full training camp to fully grasp the Steelers defense, yet his hamstring injury has kept him out of practice since July 28th. Many, myself included, were anticipating to see what Van Dyke could contribute with an entire training camp to his credit, but now, still being held out of practice, the likelihood that he makes the team is seriously in question.
Regarding Hawthorne, his knee is still keeping him out of practice and is preventing the Steelers from learning exactly what he can bring to the team.
What it all adds up to is a position that is currently devoid of any depth.
But the injuries haven’t been limited to cornerback.
The offensive line has also suffered its share of injuries with undrafted rookie free agent, Nik Embernate, who was getting work with the second team at guard, being lost for the season, and most recently, Guy Whimper, who was carted off of the field with an unknown injury.
And this week, pass catchers took their turn, as Plaxico Burress was lost for the year with a torn rotator cuff, and it appears that tight end Matt Spaeth will miss eight to ten weeks with a Lisfranc injury. Spaeth’s loss will be felt more than Burress though, as the Steelers are already trying to compensate for the absence of Heath Miller.
While injuries are an unfortunate part of every football season, none of the injuries thus far for the Steelers have clipped a player that the team is depending on to help them make a run in 2013.
Hopefully it’s a trend that continues.