Injuries are just as much a part of the game of football as blocking and tackling, or so they say—and what they say isn’t wrong, either. Often times, there is a pretty solid correlation between which teams are the healthiest and which teams are doing the best.
There isn’t any team doing better than the Pittsburgh Steelers, at least in terms of record, as they are 11-0, but perhaps there are some who have fared better on the injury front. They have just lost their third full-time starter for the season, all of them very notable injuries.
First, they lost their right tackle, Zach Banner, in the opener. Then they lost Devin Bush, their mack linebacker, against the Cleveland Browns. Last week, they lost edge rusher Bud Dupree against the Baltimore Ravens. They will have to find ways to step up. That starts with having talent to fill in.
And it starts with rookie third-round pick Alex Highsmith, who has emerged as their number three outside linebacker, but it also involves Olasunkanmi Adeniyi, who is in his third season with the team. Both will be called upon, and their teammates believe they can do the job.
“We have great confidence in them. Coach Tomlin always says next man up”, Joe Haden told reporters before the game. “It’s like Spillane, how he came in and did it. We feel the same way with Highsmith and Ola. They are just starters in waiting. You know how Coach T says it, just waiting for their opportunity”.
“We have two All-Pro outside linebackers, so the chances are limited”, he went on. “Them getting more of an opportunity. When Highsmith is in there, when Ola is in there, always making plays, attentive in meetings. They always know their assignments. They are just waiting for their opportunity”.
While Highsmith hasn’t played a ton of snaps—he has only seen the field for 20 or more plays once so far this year—he has done some good things when he was on there, and he is actually rated pretty high, for example, by Pro Football Focus, merely a confirmation of what we have seen in-game.
“I am very excited for them”, Haden said of their young outside linebacker having the opportunity to get on the field and prove themselves, as Chukwuma Okorafor and Robert Spillane have done. “At the same time, it’s going to be a two-man job. I don’t think just one of them would be able to fill in for what Bud is doing”.
It’s pretty much a necessity to have one man do the job when you’re talking about the offensive line, but the Steelers have used a variety of approaches to accommodate for the loss of Bush, and they will do the same now for Dupree. We’ll get out first taste of that today.