The Pittsburgh Steelers have had their health issues in the past when it mattered the most. Le’Veon Bell’s postseason career is the perfect example of some of their issues.
2014: Bell injures knee in Week 17 misses Wild Card game.
2015: Bell injures knee midway through the season, season over.
2016: Bell injures groin in the AFC Championship Game, does not return.
While Bell might be the perfect example, he is far from the only player who has been banged up in, or heading into, the playoffs. In 2015, Ben Roethlisberger (shoulder) was banged up in the Divisional Round vs. the Broncos, and Antonio Brown (concussion) missed that very game after Vontaze Burfict’s hit in the Wild Card Round.
You could go a step further and point out Cameron Heyward’s absence last year due to a torn pectoral muscle as another key piece of the puzzle missing when the games mattered the most.
As the Steelers now turn their attention to the Jaguars, the overall health of the team shouldn’t be a huge concern, as it has been in the past. Sure, Antonio Brown’s status is far from certain after injuring his calf in Week 15, but the general consensus is Brown will be healed and ready to play when Jacksonville comes to Heinz Field this Sunday.
You can’t write an article talking about Steelers injures, and not talk about the injury to Ryan Shazier. Granted, Shazier has been out for well over a month now, but his absence in the middle of the defense is noticeable every time the team takes the field. Nonetheless, the Steelers will have to go without him, and it seems as if he is the only main piece who won’t be present in the team’s first postseason action.
Mike Tomlin played his cards correctly down the stretch, despite what many might think. Resting Roethlisberger, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Heyward and Bell ensured the core nucleus of the team will not just be present, but will be healthy. Again, something the team hasn’t done in the past.
At 1:05 p.m. ET Sunday, the Steelers will have all available hands-on-deck, and it will be only up to the players if they are able to put together a winning performance. After all, they don’t have banged up players as an excuse if the team falls flat.