Steelers Preseason from Hell Ends as Carolina Tops Pittsburgh 23-6

And finally it ended. It had to. But not before the Pittsburgh Steelers could suffer more injuries, several of which appear serious.

Finally, the Steelers preseason from hell ran its course. There was simply no more time left to play so the misery had to stop at some point. “Misery” accurately sums up the 2015 Pittsburgh Steelers preseason experience.

  • It didn’t begin that way.

The Steelers preseason from hell began as all preseasons should – with promise. The 2014 Steelers finished with a bang, ok, they got banged by Baltimore in the playoffs, but the team’s 4-0 finish and return to the playoffs were signs of strength.

The Steelers preseason from hell started where 2014 left off. Cam Heyward, who’d emerged as an indisputable leader, got a contract extension. Mike Tomlin got a new deal as did Kevin Colbert, demonstrating Art Rooney II’s endorsement of the Steelers direction, and a total negation of the “Fire Everyone” crowd who wish that Daniel Rooney would act more like Daniel Snyder.

  • But there were warning signs. The Steelers began the season with 5 players on the PUP list.

It’s not unusual for the Steelers to place a couple of guys who are nicked on the PUP list but 5 was a large number and list of names now sounds ominous: Maurkice Pouncey, Mike Adams, quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, Shawn Lemon and Senquez Golson. All 5 started training camp on PUP and none of them will make the Steelers opening day roster…

Starting training camp with 5 players on the PUP seems like a luxury considering the carnage suffered by the Steelers once they started playing preseason games from hell.

  • The Hall of Fame Game cost the Steelers Shaun Suisham
  • The Packers game cost the Steelers Pouency and Gradkowski
  • The Bills game cost the Steelers Garrett Hartley
  • The Carolina game saw the Steelers lose three backup offensive lineman, two of whom were lost on the last play

Oh, yeah, and third string quarterback Landry Jones got injured late, late in the Panthers game and had to leave the field. For those of you taking notes at home, the tally is 2 kickers one backup quarterback, a Pro Bowl Center and a host of other players.

At this point, in most blogs are professional sites dedicated to football, this would where the obligatory paragraph begins that decries preseason football, rants against the injuries to stars in “meaningless games” and rages against preseason football charging Major League Prices for Minor League Talent.

  • You won’t find that here. Not quite.

Yours truly has been and remains preseason apologist. Teams need a chance to evaluate young talent under “live fire” conditions and the only way to get that is in preseason football and 2 preseasons games isn’t going to give you that. 5 games, however, is quite excessive.

  • If the toll from the Steelers preseason from hell has been sobering, the injuries are perhaps not the most disturbing trend.

Injuries are part of the game and come with every preseason. But typically preseason injury news is balanced by stories of young players, either touted draft picks or unheralded rookies, making a name for themselves and staking a claim to an NFL roster spot. Steelers Nation has heard plenty about injuries, but heard scant little about young players on the rise.

Writing on Jim Wexell’s Steel City Insider, veteran Pittsburgh reporter Dale Lolley summed up the Steelers preseason from Hell syndrome like this:

…But the lack of offensive and defensive line depth is perplexing. I realize the starters are set at both positions, but doesn’t anyone want to fight for a roster spot anymore? [Emphasis added]

Following the Buffalo Bills debacle Mike Tomlin lamented the lack of fire in his backup layers, labeling them the walking dead, and wondered allowed why the competition for roster spots wasn’t more intense.

And that is what’s most disturbing about the Steelers 2015 preseason from hell. The Steelers starting offense has looked strong. The Steelers pass rush showed some life, even if Pittsburgh’s pass defense promises to struggle. Those are good things. But think of what didn’t happen:

  • No kick returner not named Antonio Brown emerged
  • Dri Archer failed to establish a role for himself as rusher or receiver
  • Josh Harris had a golden opportunity to establish a roster spot and failed to do so
  • Shamarko Thomas, by all accounts struggled and could sit behind Will Allen
  • Neither Jarvis Jones nor Cortez Allen did anything to show they’d turned a corner

At some point soon, yours truly will publish an article on Rebecca Rollet’s Going Deep Steelers site discussing both how and why the NFL needs to drastically reshape the way it market’s preseason football to make it relevant to the modern fan. The article ends by offering the NFL a free tag line to promote the preseason: “Preseason football – Not a Preview, a Proving Ground.”

Steelers Nation certainly hopes the 2015 Steelers preseason from hell isn’t a preview. But unfortunately, once you set the injury issues aside, the biggest story on the Steelers preseason from hell focuses on what they failed to accomplish as opposed to what young hopefuls proved.

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