The Steelers played most of their starters/important role players in the third and final preseason game vs. the Lions at Acrisure Stadium on Sunday, and everyone got hurt.
Not really, but it sure felt that way after safety Damontae Kazee suffered a serious wrist injury that required surgery and has placed him on the Injured Reserve list to start the season.
Oh, and let’s not forget about the shoulder injury sustained by receiver Diontae Johnson while diving to make an excellent catch early in the game.
Also, if the life of the Steelers' 2022 regular season didn’t flash before your eyes immediately upon hearing that linebacker T.J. Watt was ruled out of the remainder of Sunday’s game with a chop-block-induced knee injury, you were probably already passed out due to too many pre-game “rituals.”
I can’t believe I made it to this point of the article without mentioning the fact that running back Najee Harris, Mr. 381 Touches, played in Sunday’s game AFTER suffering a Lisfranc injury early in training camp and missing about four weeks of practice—including the first two preseason games.
To quote Twitter all throughout Sunday’s game: “What the bleep, Mike Tomlin?”
See? Now, you’re coming around. You want to see the valuable commodities protected in bubble wrap. You’re not all that concerned about the “rust factor,” now, are you?
That’s right now...after a whole mess of injuries—one serious, the other two (thankfully), not so much, and the third one already healed (as far as you know).
What to do with valuable pieces during preseason games? It’s quite the controversial balancing act for an NFL head coach in the modern era, no?
If an important player gets hurt during exhibition play, the head coach will get ridiculed. If an important player doesn’t participate in one snap during the preseason and doesn't play well early in the regular season, the head coach will get ridiculed.
There just isn’t a right or wrong way to handle things. How could there be?
Nobody has a crystal ball.
Someone can get hurt on his first snap of a preseason game. A player can sit out the entire preseason and be lost for the year on the very first snap of the regular season.
A head coach obviously can’t rest all starters and important role players for preseason games, but I’ll bet he can identify his most valuable pieces. Once he does that, he makes sure they don’t play a single snap prior to the regular season.
Rust? Overrated. Chemistry? Let the players work it out during the early portions of the regular season.
At least that’s what I would do.
Then again, my philosophy on resting the truly valuable players during the preseason might be wrong. Those guys still have to hit, block and tackle during training camp practices, right?
This brings me back to what I said earlier; I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way to handle important players during the preseason.
We only think we have the right answers after someone gets hurt or starts the regular season full of rust.