I had high hopes for Shawn Lemon.
In fact, I'd say quite a few general managers did as well, given the attention he received at the start of the off-season. Upward of a quarter of the teams in the league showed at least some level of interest, and the Steelers' Kevin Colbert won the Lemon Lottery.
That's all moot now that Lemon has been waived, a victim of an Achilles injury he sustained before training camp even began.
Of the new faces who are trying out for a spot on the Steelers' final roster, Lemon had the best pedigree and the most experience. After all, he did play professional football on some level. But, you can't make the team from the Physically-Unable-to-Perform (PUP) list, and that's where the small, but gifted, pass rusher found himself when the players arrived at Saint Vincent College on Saturday.
He's not even the first to be waived injured by the Steelers this off-season. Tackle Micah Hatchie, already the longest of shots to make the team, was waived in June, making room for Collin Rahrig. Before that was wide receiver L'Damian Washington, whose departure made room for quarterback/wide receiver Devin Gardner.
In 2014, runningback Jawan Jamison was signed to replace Alvester Alexander, who spent 2013 on the practice squad. Hopes for Alexander may not have been terribly high, but there was at least enough interest to give him a shot. Before he got hurt, at least. Center David Show was released in training camp after fracturing his foot, paving the way for Josh Harris -- who played in the Steelers' playoff loss to the Ravens in January.
In 2013, DeMarcus Van Dyke -- quite well-liked in these parts despite seeing only minimal playing time in 11 games over two seasons -- found himself waived due to a "significant" hamstring injury, as well. It was deja vu all over again in 2014, except this time it was the Chiefs who waived him.
The unfortunate reality is that this usually only happens with fringe players, who may never get another chance to audition for a team. Others, like Van Dyke, bounce on and off the same roster throughout a season or two, or may bounce from team to team to team during a short career as a roster filler. Most of them weren't likely to make a final roster in the first place, but for some -- like Lemon -- it was an honest-to-goodness possibility.
Lemon will latch on somewhere else, be it the middle of the season or next winter. But it was clear that his injury was more significant than the Steelers initially let on, or he would have been given more than four days to heal. It really is unfortunate, too.
But, such is life for these players on the edge of the rosters around the league. All it takes is one injury to change everything.