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 pessimist’s take on the following question.
Question: Is it fair to call the Steelers’ training and medical staff under question based on recent evidence?
It is generally understood that the Steelers have a favorable reputation with respect to their medical and training staff. In some historical respects, their affiliated doctors have been ahead of the curve—at least ultimately—on some important issues, such as concussions, and team physicians Joseph Maroon and James Bradley have among the best reputations in the league.
That said, every aspect of every organization at times has its missteps, some happening to be much clearer than others. The Steelers have had a view medical scenarios recently that tread that murky territory in which it is unclear and unfair to make any sort of decisive pronouncement.
While Mike Tomlin was clearly ill-informed about the recovery time of Mike Adams’ back injury, and Maurkice Pouncey had a series of unfortunately setbacks in his recovery from a fractured fibula, it is unclear of what they knew, and when, on some other issues.
Cornerback Senquez Golson earlier this spring said that he has had shoulder issues throughout college, but it is unclear if the Steelers were at any time aware of this prior to them drafting him. The team did bring him in for a pre-draft visit, which is often related to medical re-checks. The issue ultimately exacerbated to the point at which he needed to have surgery, a decision that they reached prior to training camp, per reports.
The recent report about Brandon Boykin potentially having a career-threatening degenerative hip issue is one that they appear to have missed when they traded for him, though reasonably so, as it is not generally a situation that is readily detectable.
One residual concern that I have stems from the 2014 Wildcard game, in which Ben Roethlisberger clearly suffered a head-on impact with the turf. He left the field for an injury unrelated, apparently, to the head, only to return three snaps later, promptly throwing an interception. I believe it was in error not to give him a proper concussion test, regardless of the in-game ramifications. Perhaps with the spotter instituted last season, that might have happened.
Ultimately, I would not weigh judgement too heavily on the team’s medical staff, who by and large do a fine job, particularly relative the rest of the league. The coaching decisions relative to medical issues, such as Mike Mitchell’s multiple groin tears in 2014 and Antwon Blake’s ligament tear and shoulder injury last season, however, do raise some eyebrows.