The journey toward the Super Bowl is now well under way with the Pittsburgh Steelers back practicing at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, still informally referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility. With the regular season standing in their way on the path to a Lombardi, there will be questions for them to answer along the way.
We have asked and answered a lot of questions during the preseason and through training camp, but much of the answer-seeking ends in the regular season, and teams simply have to make do with what they have available to them. Still, there will always be questions for us.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the regular season and beyond as they develop, looking for the answers as we evaluate the makeup of the Steelers on their way back to the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.
Question: Which starter battling injuries is the most likely to be effective, and to remain healthy?
The Steelers figure to get some reinforcements in time for their next game, coming out of their bye week, getting back three starters who either missed or did not finish their last game in Detroit. Mike Mitchell at safety has only missed on game, but has battled injuries all year. Marcus Gilbert at right tackle and defensive end Stephon Tuitt have missed the majority of the season.
This is frankly a difficult question to answer because all three of them have dealt with recurring injuries, or seemingly related injuries. Gilbert and Mitchell have both reaggravated hamstring issues (Mitchell describing his current injury as ‘lower body’, and perhaps related to the previous injury), while Tuitt injured his back in part while overcompensating for his previous arm injury.
Out of the three, however, Tuitt is the youngest, so I’m going to favor him with respect to who I believe will be the most likely to be able to stay healthy from this point forward. But I believe it will be Gilbert who will be the most effective returning from injury.
And not because I think Tuitt will struggle coming back, but because I think Gilbert will come back playing very well, as he has consistently the past couple of years while he has been healthy. I believe he has gotten enough time off from injury at this point where he should need to be weened back into playing well.
On paper, this should be shaping up to be the first game in about three and a half years (or was it four? I don’t even remember now) that the Steelers will have had all 22 intended starters on the field on both offense and defense. They have come close to delivering that lineup a couple of times this year, but have fallen short.