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NFL IR List: Steelers have fourth-most injured reserve designations in the league

The 11 players they've placed on IR so far this season is already ahead of the totals in 2011 and 2012. They've also placed starting offensive linemen and tight ends on IR or IR-Recall nine times since 2012.

Michael Steele

Fernando Velasco became the 11th Steelers player to be placed on injured reserve this season.

The franchise is becoming so adept to this process, their staff could likely lead a seminar for new team employees.

Velasco joined Levi Brown, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Nik Embernate, Sean Spence, Larry Foote, David Johnson, Curtis Brown, Maurkice Pouncey, Justin Cheadle and Plaxico Burress on Pittsburgh's 2013 IR list. Matt Spaeth is still on IR-Recall.

According to Pro Football Reference (the only source that appears to be tracking IR moves from year-to-year), the Steelers had nine players placed on injured reserve last season, and one placed on IR-Recall (David DeCastro).

The same source lists 10 Steelers players having gone on IR in 2011.

It's instructive to point out there were players in both 2011 and 2012 placed on IR before the last game of the season. Heading into Week 17 of the 2012 season, the Steelers had no game beyond it, so keeping a player on the roster they knew wouldn't play was pointless. Those players may not necessarily have gone on IR if their injuries occurred in, say, Week 4. The fact the 2013 squad has more than both of those years (with the possibility of Spaeth becoming the 12th) by the start of Week 14 is troubling.

It could be worse, though.

While the Steelers are well above the league's average of 7.2 players on IR (as of Dec. 1, not counting players on PUP or IR-Recall), they are tied for the fourth-most players on IR with the Jets and Indianapolis.

Carolina leads the NFL with 15.

(*This list does not count players on PUP or IR-Recall, and is current through Nov. 30)

Rank Team IR count*
1 Panthers 15
2 Packers 13
3 Buccaneers 12
4 Jets 11
4 Steelers 11
4 Colts 11
7 Giants 10
8 Patriots 9
8 Broncos 9
8 Cardinals 9
11 Cowboys 8
11 Bengals 8
11 Texans 8
11 Saints 8
11 Chargers 8
16 Falcons 7
16 Raiders 7
18 Bills 6
18 Browns 6
18 Bears 6
18 Rams 6
22 Eagles 5
22 Redskins 5
22 Lions 5
22 Jaguars 5
22 49ers 5
27 Dolphins 4
27 Ravens 4
27 Titans 4
27 Seahawks 4
32 Vikings 2
32 Chiefs 2

The worst part, the Steelers have played only 75 percent of their games.

At this point, if a player has participated in all 12 of the Steelers' games, they will only miss a quarter of the season. While that's not good, the real issue the Steelers have had this year is in the total amount of games missed due to placement on IR. It's shockingly higher than in years past, and there are still more coming.

Year IR Games missed on IR
2013* 11 95
2012 9 54
2011 10 80
2010 5 69
2009 5 43

(*Through 12 games)

The final total of games missed from players on IR will be at least 139 games, which is more than twice as high as 2012, and could end up being three times as high.

And these are just the games missed by players on IR, they don't include LaMarr Woodley's three-game absence, or players who dressed but didn't play more than a series, like Brett Keisel in Week 13.

To top it off, the Steelers have had an incredible nine IR placements between players believed to be starting offensive linemen at the time of their respective injuries as well as tight ends in the last two seasons. Levi Brown would likely have been the team's starting left tackle after Week 6, but he tore his triceps in warm-ups before Pittsburgh's game against the Jets. Outside of him, Velasco, Pouncey, DeCastro, Willie Colon, Marcus Gilbert, Heath Miller, Matt Spaeth and David Johnson have all spent time on IR or IR-Recall since 2012.

The Steelers are 13-15 over the last 28 games. On one hand, it's a pretty bleak total. On the other, it feels like it could have been much worse.

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