When anyone spoke about the 2016 Pittsburgh Steelers before the season, it was some optimistic talk always followed by the following statement:
"...if the team stays healthy."
This could be true for all 32 NFL franchises, but especially for the Steelers. They saw a solid team in 2015 most likely lose in the playoffs due to injuries, and the team is possibly even more banged up in 2016. The only difference is the 2016 team hasn't had the debilitating season-ending injuries they suffered in 2015 (I knocked on wood for those superstitious fans).
So far, take a look at the list of injuries sustained:
Robert Golden (hamstring)
Ryan Shazier (knee)
Cameron Heyward (hamstring)
Justin Gilbert (knee)
Marcus Gilbert (ankle)
Senquez Golson (foot)
Ladarius Green (ankle)
Bud Dupree (sports hernia)
Ryan Harris (hematoma)
Ramon Foster (chest)
Eli Rogers (toe)
Roosevelt Nix (back)
Sean Davis (back)
Cody Wallace (knee)
Ben Roethlisberger (knee)
Talk about a major toll taken on a roster. You can talk "next man up" till you are blue in the face, but the fact of the matter is the Steelers have done well staying afloat under this much inconsistency in the lineup.
Just look at the list again. Wonder why the offensive line is so shaky as of late? The starting 5 players have only played together for a maximum of 3 games. B.J. Finney and Chris Hubbard have both had to step in at their respective backup positions to help out.
Wonder why communication on the back end of the defense is struggling? Ryan Shazier and Robert Golden have been missing.
You have to learn to play alongside your teammates, and this Steelers team hasn't had the opportunity to do so in 2016. Yes, the Steelers have laid two very bad eggs this season, to the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 3 and the Miami Dolphins in Week 6, but this team is a group which should be able to come together and play some good football in the near future.
Humor me, and take one more look at the above list. Every one of those players, who isn't on the injured reserve list, not only will be returning to the field, but returning sooner than later, and when they do, this Steelers team could have a very different vibe to it.
Injuries are part of the game, and there will be more injuries this season, but teams who can adjust and deal with those injuries is the sign of a true team. Believe it or not, the Steelers have done so to this point. Yes, those horrible two losses stick out like a sore thumb, but there is a reason players like Marcus Gilbert and Ryan Shazier are starters. Not to cut on their backups, but the talent level just isn't the same.
This week's game against the New England Patriots is one which most fans aren't looking forward to watching, but understand even if the team loses the contest, the season is far from over after just 7 games. They will hit their bye week at almost the perfect time, and have the 5 of their 6 division games following their bye week.
The first goal for any team should always be to win the division, and with a healthy roster there is no doubt that goal remains intact. Everything after that is just icing on the cake. Sure, everyone would love the No. 1 see and home field advantage throughout the playoffs, but a playoff berth with a healthy team could spell disaster for any opponent in the postseason, regardless of where they play.
That is...if they stay healthy.