The Pittsburgh Steelers opened up training camp at long last yesterday, and though today is the beginning of actual practices, the sign-in day was still chock full of news, as we learned that the team will open up camp with five players designated for the Physically Unable to Perform List.
The most serious injury within that group was, seemingly, tackle Mike Adams, who had back surgery less than a week ago, which requires a rehabilitation window of around a month. Needless to say, that really limits what kind of progress Adams will be able to make on the field.
As Alex Kozora touched on yesterday, it also opens up opportunities for other plays to get more reps and perhaps battle for a ninth lineman spot on the 53-man roster, if not unseat Adams outright, though that seems unlikely at this point in time.
But there was another injury suffered by an offensive lineman that I believe will prove to be beneficial for both the depth chart and for the team as a whole. Center Maurkice Pouncey suffered a mild right foot sprain during training, an injury that has been characterized as day-to-day.
Provided that the injury is indeed minor and will have no lingering repercussions, it should open the doors to more reps, and higher-quality reps, for the multitude of young interior offensive linemen that are hoping to make the roster.
While he sits out, it could be safely presumed that reserve interior lineman Cody Wallace will take the vast majority of the first-team reps at center. Wallace is a veteran who has started five games for the Steelers over the past two years and is a virtual roster lock.
That will open up additional opportunities along the second-team offensive line amongst the many young faces competing for a roster spot, including B.J. Finney, Miles Dieffenbach, Reese Dismukes, and Collin Rahrig, with Chris Hubbard also fitting into this category.
Even assuming that Pouncey’s injury is indeed minor and only spends a few days on the PUP list before being activated, it’s probably a safe assumption that the coaching staff will not push him, because he quite simply doesn’t need it.
Pouncey may only be 26, but I strongly suspect that he will be getting rest, especially after this injury. He is, after all, a sixth-year veteran despite his young age, and he is also a four-time All-Pro. There’s no need for him to be on the field for every practice snap at this stage of his career, even if the excuse can’t really be a contusion of the birth certificate thanks to his youth.
Enter Finney, Dismukes, et al. All five of these players are competing for what could be at best two roster spots, but which will in all likelihood only be one. Hubbard, who spent all of last season on the 53-man roster, is also in this group.
When Pouncey is on the sidelines, it has a ripple effect on each line group. The third-team center could be taking second-team reps, which could open up a slot on the third-team line, etc. The extra reps, and reps against higher quality competition, should help make it easier to sort out the competition.