It is far, far too early for Steelers Nation to begin panicking, but the injuries the Steelers have suffered thus far in training camp reveal just how little margin for error the Steelers have left themselves in 2013.
In wrapping up the Steelers 2013 off season, Steel Curtain Rising looked back at the gloom and doom predictions and preceded free agency, and complemented Kevin Colbert for pulling off the equivalent of a salary cap “Loaves and Fishes” miracle.
The premise was that, while the Steelers might have had to swallow hard watch stars on the rise like Mike Wallace and Keenan Lewis depart for greener pastures, Colbert had positioned Pittsburgh to get the most bang for its salary cap buck.
While that analysis holds true, success in such a maneuver depends on some very calculated risks.
Steelers Operating Without Safety Net
As Bob Labriola of the Steelers Digest pointed out, the Steelers in many ways are entering 2013 without much of a safety net.
- Doug Legursky a staple “next man up” philosophy on the interior offensive line is in Buffalo
- Max Starks, who bailed out the line in both 2008 and again in 2011 is in San Diego
- Instead of Keenan Lewis, to fill in for injured Cortez Allen, the Steelers instead must rely on William Gay
In no area are the Steelers more exposed than on offensive line.
While the Cortez Allen’s injury is believed to be minor and should heal well before the season, in addition to Gay, the Steelers can still count on Curtis Brown and Josh Victorian, even if Demarcus Van Dyke and 5th round draft pick Terry Hawthorne are out with injuries of unknown severity.
They also have 4th round pick Shamarko Thomas, whose versatility is already on display (in camp at least):
The loss of Nik Embertate is drawing a lot of attention, some of that is simply because of the nature of the NFL news cycle. Fans have long demonstrated a nearly insatiable appetite for news about the NFL, and in the age of smart phones and tablets, they have the means to get it.
Websites respond in kind with “content.”
But it goes beyond that….
Steelers Tempting Fate with the Offensive Line?
….The Steelers Achilles heal in 2011 and 2012 was neither their secondary nor their inability to create sacks and force turnovers on defense. No, it was the instability on their offensive line.
In Marcus Gilbert, Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, and Mike Adams the Steelers have given themselves a potentially strong starting front five. Kelvin Beachum gives them another solid, young back up. John Malecki also has some game experience and adds stability to the inside.
Depth gets thin, quickly at tackle. Guy Whimper is the only player with real NFL experience, and Whimper’s ability has been savaged from every where from Behind the Steel Curtain to the Steel City Insider.
The hope was that Embertate would show enough to be an option their, if not on game days then certainly on the practice squad. Mike Golic Jr. was brought in as a tackle, but word his he looks better at guard.
- But the Steelers may have tipped their hand in signing D’Anthony Batiste
Batiste has played for 3 teams in six NFL seasons and been cut loose after his only extended stretch as a starter. Yet, as Neal Coolong has observed, he’s out performed Whimper….
The injury streak suffered by the Steelers at offensive line has been uncanny. The Steelers had some hard salary cap calculations to make.
- Did they roll the dice and calculate that lightning can’t strike 3 times?
Too Early to Start Missing Max Starks?
Steelers Nation rightly cringes at the thought of either Adams or Gilbert falling injured. The decision to sign Batiste signals that Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert do too.
“Where did you go Maxwell Starks Steelers Nation turns it lonely eyes to you…” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as the famous bar from Mrs. Robinson, but hopefully those bars will not be hummed on the South Side this fall.