The Pittsburgh Steelers pulled a surprise move on cut down day when they traded for former Browns first-round draft pick Justin Gilbert. But not even that was appropriate preparation for the surprise of yesterday’s move to place second-year starting outside linebacker Bud Dupree on injured reserve.
Dupree is scheduled to undergo surgery shortly, in order to repair what many believe to be a sports hernia. The timing of his placement on injured reserve obviously indicates that the Steelers intend strongly to bring him back at some point beyond the first eight weeks of the season by assigning him the return designation.
In case you have not guessed, that poses an interesting implication for the status of second-year cornerback Senquez Golson, who suffered a Lisfranc injury early in training camp. It was anticipated by just about everybody outside of the organization that he would be placed on injured reserve.
That the move had not already been made soon after the injury occurred was assumed to indicate that the medical staff believed it would be a possibility that the cornerback could return at some point beyond the midway point of the season, since in order to qualify to return from injured reserve, a player must first be on the 53-man roster.
But Dupree has seemingly locked up that hoped-for return designation slot—though, meaningfully, the return designation no longer has to be immediately declared—and Golson remains on the roster. The most reasonable assumption now would have to be that the Steelers intend to carry him on the 53-man roster for as long as they are able with the hopes of him returning at some point during the season.
Golson has personally said that he is targeting the October 17 game for his return, though he also said that he anticipates he will be able to return no later than the end of November. And the Steelers, after all, do need seven inactive players on game day. An injured high-pedigreed cornerback would seem to be a fine option for as long as they can manage the burden.
Perhaps there is some benefit to this. While he of course will not be practicing while he is injured, he will not in fact have any rules-based restrictions pertaining to his participation level, either physically on the practice field or otherwise, which would not be the case on injured reserve.
It is surely more easy to remain engaged and motivated on the 53-man roster than while on injured reserve, even while in fact injured. After spending all of his rookie season on injured reserve, perhaps somewhat isolated, at least mentally, from his teammates, there is likely a positive psychological side-effect from being able to carry him on the 53-man roster.
Hopefully, all of this good-vibery will be rewarded during the course of the season with Golson returning to the practice field. He was supposed to be the Steelers’ starting slot cornerback this year. While he may struggle to get playing time on defense, he would still provide valuable depth, particularly inside, where it is especially lacking.