A spate of players either have injuries or are beat up enough to have to sit out of practice. Due to the Hall of Fame game, the Steelers have an extra week of training camp, so head coach Mike Tomlin has been giving veterans days off in the hopes of keeping his core players healthy. Despite those precautions, and extra conditioning for the defense designed to prevent injuries, it appears there is an unusually high number of bumps and bruises this year. The list of players who are not at 100% grows with each work out and now includes:
WR Martavis Bryant, elbow infection
OLB Jarvis Jones, bicep contusion
CB Antwon Blake, sore knee
LB Ryan Shazier, back
S Shamarko Thomas, shoulder
S Ross Ventrone, lower leg (in a walking boot)
RB Josh Harris, shoulder
RB Ross Scheuerman, Achilles (he's been released)
C Maurkice Pouncey, foot
CB Senquez Golson, shoulder
RB DeAngelo Williams, shoulder (he was seen icing it)
RB Josh Harris, shoulder
QB Bruce Gradkowski, shoulder
CB Cortez Allen, knee
S Mike Mitchell, hamstring
WR Markus Wheaton, hamstring
OT Mike Adams, back (recovering from surgery)
The severity of these injuries is unknown, and the Steelers, like many teams, tend to be a bit cagey when discussing the seriousness of injuries. In 2014, for example, Mike Tomlin understated the seriousness of Ryan Shazier's training camp knee injury, calling it a "boo boo." It turned out to be a bit more serious. The injury that caused Shazier to miss most of last season, however, was unavoidable: Lawrence Timmons fell back onto his leg.
Even if players are cleared to participate in regular season games, training camp injuries can come back to haunt the team. During the 2014 training camp, for example, Mike Mitchell claimed his groin injury was not a big deal, but after he struggled during the 2014 season he admitted in the offseason that it was a limiting factor in his ability to perform and deliver on the field. He also claimed that he knew the playbook "very, very well," though he admitted in the offseason that he had room for improvement in that area.
While speculation is generally futile, the sheer number of key players who are not operating at 100% is troublesome. What could be behind this long list of injuries? Here are some possibilities:
1) Overtraining can make players more susceptible to injuries. The defense had been doing extra conditioning work to prevent injuries. Could this extra work have had the exact opposite effect, making players more prone to injuries? There are more defensive players on the "not at 100-percent" list than offensive players. This overtraining could have taken place prior to training camp. In an effort to get in the "best shape of their lives" as Mike Tomlin ordered, players could have arrived to training camp already somewhat worn down and compromised.
2) Heat can make players more prone to injuries. It has been very hot in Latrobe, so dehydration coupled with exertion could lead to aches and pains that warrant more than a "suck it up, buttercup" response from coaches and trainers.
3) Many injuries on the list could be very minor. Better safe than sorry when it comes to training camp. There isn't much sense compromising the health of players before the regular season even starts. While the list of injured players is terrifyingly long, it could be that many of these players are dealing with regular soreness and the effects of intense training.
It remains to be seen how these injuries will impact these key players. Senquez Golson's injury appears very serious, otherwise, I doubt the Steelers would have brought on Jordan Sullen and Brandon Boykin (though, let's be honest, Boykin was a great acquisition regardless of the depth situation at CB.)
There are also some newer guys who are staying healthy and playing well during training camp who could play greater roles this season if they are called upon. Roosevelt Nix, Eli Rogers, Alejandro Villanueva, and a few others are all receiving a lot of positive buzz.
Is this a disaster? It is too soon to tell. At the very least, it is worth keeping an eye on. Hopefully that list will shrink, not grow, as training camp continues.