Mike Tomlin’s stated goal for training camp is to “come out as a battle-hardened unit.” This is exactly the objective that Steelers Nation expects from their leader in the field.
The reality that is playing out in Latrobe, is something a little different.
First, came the news that this would be the Steelers shortest summer ever at St. Vincents. Then Tomlin began camp by putting three players on to physically unable to perform list. (Granted, Casey Hampton’s spot on this list amounts to a quasi punishment for showing up out of shape.)
The second week of camp finds Chris Kemoeatu leaving the PUP list only to have the Steelers holding nine players out of practice because of injuries. The official list of starters not practicing Tuesday was:
- James Harrison (groin)
- Deshea Townsend (groin)
- Brett Keisel (groin)
- Kendall Simmons (shoulder)
- Marvel Smith (back)
You can add Big Ben to that list, as he only participated in 7 on 7 drills.
Back ups sitting out include:
- Limas Sweed (hamstring)
- linebacker Mike Humpal (hamstring)
- tight end Dezmond Sherrod (neck)
- linebacker Anthony Trucks (back)
Apparently, Simmons and Smith sat out for precautionary reasons and were supposed to practice Wednesday.
Given that each NFL team only gets 16 shots at glory each year, combined with the realities of the salary cap, the desire of NFL coaches to avoid injury prior to the regular season is understandable.
Hence, every year it seems like starters get less and less work in the preseason, and now it seems like attitude toward practicing someone is, “when in doubt, pull him out.”
Perhaps that’s the right thing to do.
There’s no mock-Pro Bowl selection of the star players whose seasons end before opening day.
But should we be alarmed that the team’s only two established, veteran starters on the offensive line were held out of pratice? How is the line to build cohesion?
At the end of the day, football is a men’s game. As Chuck Noll used to say, football is about hitting, and hitting requires using your body as a projectile. While definitely is an activity that makes one prone to injury, it’s not something that comes naturally. It takes time and yes practice to get into that mindset.
Certainly, players (Casey Hampton excepted) now arrive at camp in far, far better shape than their brethren did 30 or 20 years ago. But nothing can simulate live football.
If Mike Tomlin needs to hold a player out of practice for his good or the good of the team that he most certainly do that. Far better to avoid minor injuries blossoming into major ones.
But one must hope that Tomlin can find a way to exit Latrobe as “a battle hardened unit” in spite of long injury lists.