If the Pittsburgh Steelers are to win their third consecutive game of the season -- as well as the third straight matchup against the Houston Texans -- they'll have to do so with improved play along the offensive line, a solid performance from the secondary, and more consistent ball protection from Ben Roethlisberger and the rest of the Steelers' offensive unit.
In the Week 3 win over Indianapolis, the Steelers suffered multiple injuries to offensive linemen, the first real rash of physical setbacks the team has experienced since losing Willie Colon for the season in Week 1. Jonathan Scott, who struggled for much of the night containing Dwight Freeney from his left tackle position, is out with a severely sprained ankle. Rookie Marcus Gilbert is expected to start in his place at LT even though he too is recovering from an injury sustained last Sunday. Gilbert injured his shoulder in the win and was replaced in favor of Trai Essex at right tackle. When Scott went down though in the fourth quarter, Gilbert was forced to return to the lineup and was slid over to the left side.To round out the tough night injury-wise, Doug Legursky also went down with a shoulder injury. According to Dale Lolley in my interview with him this morning, Legursky is likely to dress but not play except in the event of an injury.
All told, Mike Tomlin faces quite the dilemma. How many offensive linemen should the Steelers dress this coming Sunday against the Texans? Last week they dressed seven and it nearly put them in a huge predicament. Gilbert had no choice really but to return, as the Steelers were out of reserves to use instead. With Legursky and Gilbert still not fully recovered from their respective shoulder injuries, should the Steelers really roll the dice and go to battle with juts seven OL again?
Probably not. Seems a bit too risky. Scott Brown reported this morning that Bruce Arians said he expects Jamon Meredith to dress this Sunday. Meredith, who's bounced around between five teams since entering the league in 2009, was picked up by the Steelers in the aftermath of Colon's injury. He would theoretically be the first guy off the bench if either Essex or Gilbert got hurt or struggled mightily.
We'll see about that, but I would love to see Turner earn a helmet. He was my sleeper pick to make the practice squad or roster amongst the crop of undrafted free agent rookies. Frankly, the Steelers would probably be better off going with him over Meredith were they to find themselves with no other alternatives. If the two are more or less equal with how they look in practice, might as well go with the younger guy who the team clearly is intrigued by from a potential and physical ability standpoint.
Hopefully this is a moot point come Sunday when the Steelers place the Texans. However, given the uncertain status of multiple guys at an already thin position, it's a conversation worth talking about as we wait to see if Tomlin does in fact dress eight OL or opts to roll the dice with just seven.