Looking around the league this year—looking around just the division—I find it hard, as a fan, not to be appreciative of the fact that the Pittsburgh Steelers have had themselves a relatively healthy season. Their injured reserve list is pretty tame, consisting of just five players, a couple of whom I’m not sure we even know what their injury was.
The list includes two rookie draft picks, with seventh-round outside linebacker Keion Adams having a shoulder injury that ended his season before it began. Chances are, however, that he would have been put on the practice squad anyway.
There is Cameron Sutton, the third-round cornerback, who may not even have a place on the 53-man roster now that he has returned to practice and is eligible to be activated at any time. Ironically, it may take an injury to get him a roster spot. Otherwise he will remain on injured reserve.
Sure, the Steelers have had some nagging injuries to some significant players. Starting right tackle Marcus Gilbert has battled a hamstring injury that has limited him to just two full games, and about a game’s worth of play across two others, missing four starts.
Then there is defensive end Stephon Tuitt, who suffered what initially was feared to be a significant bicep injury. They dodged a bullet there, and he only ended up missing two games from that. But then, after three games back, he suffered a back injury that resulted in him sitting out the past two.
Starting outside linebackers Bud Dupree and T.J. Watt both missed a game due to injury. Dupree’s is the more serious, monitoring a shoulder injury stemming from training camp, but he has supposedly been getting better.
Left guard Ramon Foster also missed one game. Mike Mitchell at free safety missed his first game in his four years with the team. Tight end Vance McDonald has missed two games with separate injuries to his back and his knee. Backup safety J.J. Wilcox missed a game with a concussion.
And that’s, incredibly, pretty much been it. There have been no major, long-term injuries to any players this season who were intended to play significant roles in the Steelers’ gameplan this year. You can’t say that about any of their divisional opponents.
The Browns have JOE THOMAS on injured reserve, for crying out loud. Joe Thomas. Now, it’s not exactly a surprise to see Tyler Eifert on the Bengals’ injured reserve list, but that’s beside the point. The Ravens have, among others, Marshal Yanda and Alex Lewis, as well as Tavon Young, resting on theirs.
The Steelers will, by season’s end, have faced at least four teams fielding a backup quarterback. Three of them are still to come. Sam Bradford was out when they played the Vikings. Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, and now Deshaun Watson will all be absent when their teams play the Steelers.
And it’s not as though Pittsburgh is unaccustomed to the injury bug. Dupree spent most of last year on injured reserve, as did Cameron Heyward. Ladarius Green missed most of the season. I could go on. But this year, the list is mercifully short, halfway through the campaign.