The bad news is that the Pittsburgh Steelers have a few players that are currently dealing with concussions. The good news is that for two of them, at least, they appear to be on their way back, and may clear the protocol very shortly, perhaps as early as today, barring any setbacks.
The three players currently dealing with concussions are rookie defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, first-year offensive lineman B.J. Finney, and veteran safety Shamarko Thomas. Both Hargrave and Thomas suffered concussions in last week’s victory over the Giants, and neither were able to dress and play for Pittsburgh on Sunday.
As for Finney, who was starting on Sunday in place of the injured Ramon Foster, he played every snap of the game, but developed concussion symptoms after the fact, which had the effect of putting him into the concussion protocol as a matter of standard practice.
While Thomas did not participate in practice yesterday in any capacity, the good news is that both Hargrave and Finney appear to have been able to do so, even though they themselves remain in the concussion protocol. The fact that they were able to resume full practice participation means that they are in the final stage of the concussion protocol.
As Melanie Friedlander pointed out to me yesterday, the fifth stage of the concussion protocol requires players to resume “full participation in practice and contact without restriction”, which is the step that is preceded by return to non-contact activities during practice.
— Melanie Friedlander (@Girlsurgeon) December 14, 2016
In order for a player to clear the final stage of the concussion protocol, they must be able to demonstrate “tolerance of all football activities without any recurrent concussion signs or symptoms”. We know that Finney and Hargrave are at this stage based on their self-reported participation level.
Assuming that they show no recurring concussion symptoms today, they should be back at practice once again today, and may well graduate from the concussion protocol altogether, which would assure their return to the field for the Steelers on Sunday.
It is rare for a player to be able to clear the concussion protocol within four days, as it appears that Finney may well do, although it is possible. Players who have suffered a concussion on a Sunday game have been able to return to play on a Thursday night game, which has happened at least once this season.
With Foster also returning to practice yesterday and reportedly doing everything with the confidence that he will be able to return to the lineup, Finney’s quick recovery from his concussion is not as immediately strategically pertinent as is Hargrave’s recovery, but it should go without saying that being cleared of a concussion is always important news.
Pragmatically, however, the Steelers should really benefit from the return of Hargrave to the lineup, who was just coming into his own, particularly as an interior pass rusher, prior to suffering his concussion. The defensive line ran with just four healthy players on Sunday, and I doubt they would want to do that again.