You may recall for the past several offseasons that I ran an article series called The Optimist’s/Pessimist’s Take. I used it to explore different issues and topics the Pittsburgh Steelers were facing and took a positive or negative approach, examining each side in a separate article. This is essentially the same idea behind that, only condensed into one article for every topic.
In this version of the idea, I’ll be playing the Devil’s Advocate for both sides of the issue, looking at the best-case and worst-case scenarios in trying to find the range of likely outcomes of what is likely to happen for the Steelers relating to whatever topic the article is covering.
When it comes to the process of trying to construct a championship roster, the reality is that there are a ton of moving parts, and several ways to acquire said parts. There are a lot of things that can go right or wrong in not always predictable ways, so I think it’s helpful to try to look at issues by seeking out the boundaries of the likely positive or negative results.
Topic: Should young or new players with injuries be participating during minicamp?
As we head into the final portion of offseason practices before things kick off in Latrobe in over a month, we have left just three more days to cover in the form of mandatory minicamp. Players not under contract, of course, are not obligated to participate, and that includes Alejandro Villanueva and Le’Veon Bell, who have not signed their exclusive rights and franchise tenders, respectively.
But there is another group of players about whom there is speculation about their contributions during minicamp over the next three days, and that is the injured. Among the new and young players who have been sidelined or limited in some capacity up until now are lineman B.J. Finney, running back James Conner, defensive linemen Javon Hargrave and Tyson Alualu, and safety Sean Davis.
Of the group, I believe that only Conner and Davis have been participating in some limited capacity up to this point following their injuries. When it comes to Alualu, he has only participated essentially in stretches since suffering a calf injury prior to OTAs.
For the young players, of course, every rep counts. When it comes to Conner, he is being looked at as potentially the backup running back to Bell, who has an obvious injury history. The number two has played a meaningful role for years now, so the sooner he works, the better. Davis is already in the starting lineup, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t need the work, either.
Generally speaking, practices right now are not exactly very physical, considering that they are not allowed to wear pads, so depending on the nature of the injury, the risk of making things worse is probably pretty low, which increases the argument for participating through minor injury.
But most of the work being done right now is in the form of installation. Mental reps are about as valuable as physical reps during minicamp for many positions. Linemen especially can only do so much without pads on.
Given that there are just three days of practices left, before over a month off, there is only so much value in taking the risk to expose yourself to injury while recovering from injury when you are so close to having down time to complete your rehab, even if it comes at the expense of learning opportunities.
Which side do you lean closer toward?