The Steelers were having enough injury problems before the trip to play the Broncos. The offensive line has been inconsistent with healthy starts over the last few years and this season is unfortunately looking similar.
With David DeCastro already out of what would have been his starting right guard position he was placed on the IR/Active list. In case you didn’t know this year the league made a change to help the teams with roster spots. They now allow one player to be place on the IR list, but be able to be activated during the season.
The Steelers didn’t miss a beat with DeCastro out by giving Ramon Foster his spot back again. However, Foster left the game early and didn’t return due to an optical migraine. Foster will be the starter again for Week 2. Doug Legursky was forced to play right guard, a role he has filled several times.
Starting right tackle Marcus Gilbert was also banged up in Denver. Gilbert hyperextended his knee but it expected to be fine for week 2. Mike Adams played better than his preseason games in relief until the end of the game, when the Broncos could pin their ears back.
The running backs are the other offensive position that was beat up. Rashard Mendenhall will be listed as questionable and is still expected to miss Week 2. No point in rushing him back when there are three other relatively healthy backs on the roster. Coach Tomlin has also said that he expects Chris Rainey to get more touches soon.
Anyone watching the game could tell that Rainey was waiting for his opportunity to try to help his team. Every kickoff that he fielded in the back of the end zone if they were even catchable, he was itching to break one out. He may be the spark that this team needs for the big play ability on offense or special teams.
Defensively, the team has their usual bumps and bruises.
James Harrison is still listed as questionable, but will be upgraded to probable very soon. Coach Tomlin said that he will be fine. Fine, of course meaning he isn’t now, but should be soon. That is the typical Coach Tomlin’s response for a player’s health this early in the week.
Troy Polamalu also has a strained calf, but again Coach Tomlin said he will be fine. Polamalu will be needed this week against a Jets offense that has shown some serious improvements and some upgrades. All of which has nothing to do with Tim Tebow. Credit mostly Stephen Hill, the rookie wide receiver from Georgia Tech.The most important return of all could be safety Ryan Clark. He was certainly missed in Denver and will show his value in coverage immediately.
If Harrison returns this week as well, you may see a very different defense. The extra pressure on the edge and better coverage downfield will create more problems for the quarterback.
As health issue will always be a concern for every NFL team the Steelers appear to be getting healthy in most positions. The long wait will come for DeCastro and Mendenhall, although many think Mendenhall’s return is right around the corner.