The Pittsburgh Steelers have, by and large, been on an upward swing over the course of the past two and a half seasons after they missed the playoffs for two straight seasons, and failed to win a postseason game in four straight years.
Last season saw them gain that elusive playoff victory, though they came up short with about three minutes left in the Divisional round a week later. Their offense took off, and their defense improved, showing playmaking ability and opportunism.
But there are still a lot of unanswered questions facing the team as we crack into free agency territory. As an exercise, we like to take a stab at some of those questions, presenting arguments for the pros and cons of each side of the coin. This is the optimist’s take on the following question.
Question: Is it fair to call the Steelers’ training and medical staff under question based on recent evidence?
The Pittsburgh Steelers have certainly had their fair share of injuries situations in recent years. Some of it can be helped, or monitored, but much of it cannot. There is little in the way of preventative measures against the risk of suffering a torn ACL, for example.
Not everything has seemed to go according to the Steelers’ plans recently in more stable settings, however, such as the injury situations surrounding Mike Adams and Maurkice Pouncey, two Steelers offensive linemen who ended up missing the entirety of the 2015 season.
Adams underwent a procedure on his back during the down time between minicamp and training camp, and Mike Tomlin originally speculated that his recovery would take about eight weeks or so, if my memory is correct. But he never came off the Physically Unable to Perform list.
Pouncey suffered a fractured fibula during the preseason, and was put on the short-term injured reserve list, but there seemed to be a belief that he would be able to return late in the season. That goes without saying given that they left open the window for his return.
Neither player ever dressed, but does that really say something about the medical staff? Back injuries are notoriously fickle, and Tomlin’s original estimation could have simply been optimistic and uninformed. Pouncey suffered a number of setbacks that required additional surgeries.
Also last year, it seemed that the Steelers were almost caught off-guard with Senquez Golson needing to have shoulder surgery in training camp, but we later learned that the team knew in advance that he would have surgery. They kept him in training camp in order to allow him to have that experience during his rookie season, which would serve multiple purposes.
The staff was obviously proficient enough to assure that Ben Roethlisberger did not have to miss any more time than necessary when he suffered a sprained MCL and a bone bruise in the middle of the season, missing exactly four games as predicted. Other than Kelvin Beachum’s injury, the offensive line also stayed remarkably healthy during the regular season for the first time in a good while.
When it comes to the questions surrounding certain medical situations the Steelers have dealt with in recent years, the problem is that there’s simply a lot about them that we don’t know, so it’s hard to say just what the issue might have been. The optimist gives them the benefit of the doubt, and they generally have one of the highest reputations in the league. The pessimists will air his doubts tomorrow.