Injuries, injuries and more injuries. Even though we're still pretty early into the 2012 Steelers preseason, injuries have already become a central theme as the team looks to get ready for the start of the regular season.
Tight end/fullback David Johnson was lost for the season after sustaining an ACL tear in the preseason opener against the Eagles last Thursday, and more injury concerns have surfaced for the club as it prepares for preseason game number two Sunday night at Heinz Field against the Indianapolis Colts.
On Wednesday, it was reported that outside linebacker James Harrison, who has been on the PUP list because of swelling in his left knee since the start of training camp, may have to undergo arthroscopic knee surgery before the start of the regular season. With Harrison out for at least the Colts' game, and with backup linebacker Jason Worilds also on the PUP list, second year man Chris Carter will get his second straight start at right outside linebacker Sunday night. Adrian Robinson, who had a fairly memorable debut in the preseason opener against the Eagles, also figures to get plenty of playing time.
In other injury news, as Neal Coolong wrote in this article, the Steelers could be quite thin at the running back spot for the game against the Colts. Rashard Mendenhall is obviously still a ways away from returning to action following offseason ACL surgery, and his backup, Isaac Redman, has been dealing with an injured groin muscle and was scheduled to have an MRI on Thursday. It remains to be seen how much action, if any, Redman will see against Indy. Also, third year back Jonathan Dwyer suffered a sprained shoulder in the game against the Eagles and his playing time could also be limited against Indy. And finally, second year back John Clay was waived/injured by the Steelers on Tuesday after suffering a hip/groin injury during last Sunday's practice. With the team so thin at the running back position, this could mean more game reps for second year back Baron Batch, who carried the football 19 times in his NFL debut after missing all of last season due to an ACL tear, and rookie Chris Rainey, who dazzled Steelers fans with his 57 yard touchdown catch and run during the second half of last Thursday's game. With new OC Todd Haley placing greater importance on the fullback position this season, the loss of Johnson could be a downfall, but undrafted rookie fullback Will Johnson out of West Virginia figures to get a significant look now, and a strong preseason showing could go a long way towards solidifying his spot on the 53 man roster.
Injuries have also played a role along the offensive line this preseason. After struggling mightily in his preseason debut, rookie Mike Adams suffered a minor knee injury against Philadelphia and will not play Sunday night against the Colts. Right tackle Marcus Gilbert will move over to left tackle for Sunday's game, and Ramon Foster, who started at left guard in the preseason opener in place of the injured Willie Colon, will move to right tackle. After missing the Eagles game with an ankle injury, Colon will make his debut at left guard Sunday evening. Lastly, left tackle Max Starks was activated off the PUP list on Tuesday, but because of stipulations in the new CBA, his practice time will be limited, and he'll more than likely miss Sunday night's contest.
Player evaluation is always of utmost importance during the preseason, but keeping players healthy is also paramount and often vital to a team's success. Hopefully, the headlines on Monday morning will focus more on the former and less on the latter.