Even though the Pittsburgh Steelers managed to leave the stadium today with a victory, it is quite easy to find the rain clouds brewing in the sky. The first-team defense struggled quite a bit, and the offense hardly did anything in the first half before the deep reserves picked things up.
But the clear worst aspect of the entire game was second-year defensive tackle Javon Hargrave suffering a concussion on the first drive of the game and being forced to miss the rest of the contest. Head Coach Mike Tomlin after the game confirmed that he is now in the protocol.
What is most concerning about this development is the fact that this is not the first concussion that he has suffered in his young career. In fact, it is perhaps at least his third documented concussion, and at the very least the third time as a professional that he has been evaluated for one.
During the Steelers’ Week 13 victory over the Giants, Hargrave left that game with a concussion after recording two tackles in the first half. That incident forced him to miss the game in Buffalo the following week, though he returned and played the rest of the season.
The former third-round draft pick also had to leave Pittsburgh’s regular season finale against the Browns after it was suspected that he suffered a concussion. It was not even a month after his first incident, but he was able to return the following week for the Steelers’ postseason run.
Following today’s suspected concussion, he now has three head injuries on his professional injury list, which is a concern, especially the more that we learn about the relationship between concussions and cognitive health, particularly late in life.
More immediately, it would be very surprising if he plays in the final two preseason games, not the least of which reason being that both of them are coming shortly. The Steelers’ third preseason game—the most important one for the starters—is coming up on Saturday. Their final game will be held next Thursday.
Even if he is cleared relatively quickly, in my opinion, it would still be advisable to hold him out and limit his exposure to the repetitive head trauma of even rote contact between offensive and defensive linemen in practice.
Should he not see the field for the rest of the preseason, his next appearance in a game will not come until September 10, a full three weeks from today. Sure, as a young player, he may need the reps, but I don’t think there is such a thing as being too cautious with concussions.
Hopefully Hargrave is able to clear the concussion protocol relatively quickly, but even so, I would still hold him out for the rest of the preseason. There is minimal benefit in risking playing him as soon as Saturday, and he probably wouldn’t play much at all in the final game anyway.