Smith Out, Steelers Defense In Chaos

The beleaguered Pittsburgh Steelers defense was dealt a crippling blow yesterday when it was announced DE Aaron Smith is likely gone for the next three months. Head coach Mike Tomlin at his Tuesday cliche-fest press conference said Smith suffered a torn rotator cuff during Sunday’s game against the Lions. No specifics were given on exactly when or how this injury occurred. A torn rotator cuff is an odd injury as outside of quarterbacks and Pittsburgh Pirates #1 draft picks, this is the first time I’ve heard of it in football.

In fact, I neglected to mention anything being awry during my obnoxiously long post-game recap because, well, nobody knew Smith was hurt. Evidently, he was injured sometime in the third quarter but other than missing a handful of snaps here and there, he continued to play. I suffer indescribable pain from a pebble in my shoe so I can’t imagine engaging in trench warfare with a blown out shoulder. Aaron Smith is officially a man’s man.

The loss of Smith comes just as the Steeler D is expecting superstar safety Troy Polamalu back. Although Troy should help solidify what has become a horror show of a secondary, losing Smith creates a brand new set of problems for Dick LeBeau and company. The saying, “If it wasn’t for bad luck…” comes springing to mind.

Smith is universally considered the best 3-4 end in the league. In normal speak, he’s really good at creating gaps for the linebackers to make plays. More importantly, he’s the key to our run defense. Before Smith tore his bicep in 2007, the Steelers were the #1 team against the rush. Shortly thereafter, they gave up over 200 yards to the Jaguars duo of Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew. I’m not so much worried about the running game this week but the week after that the Black and Gold plays this dude up in Minnesota, I forget his name, Adrian whatshisface

We’re in trouble.

Unless of course somebody steps up in his place. The Steelers invested their 1st round draft pick this year in a defensive end by the name of Ziggy Hood. Unfortunately, in the words of Tomlin, “he’s not quite ready to come out of the oven yet.” Which means Ziggy is either still learning LeBeau’s defense or he’s the Muffin Man. Do you know the Muffin Man?

What made the Steelers defense special last season was the fact none of their key players missed any significant time.  This year, it’s been one catastrophic injury after the other.  Losing Casey Hampton or Willie Parker for a game or two isn’t that big of a deal because the drop-off with their backups isn’t so steep.  When you go from a stud like Smith to a platoon featuring the law firm of Kirschke, Eason, and Hood, that’s the Grand Canyon.

Yep, we’re in trouble.   Big trouble.

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  • treeher

    Seems to me that a number 1 draft pick ought to be able to step up and at least provide some immediate help. Let him play a lot of minutes in the Cleveland game and see what he’s made of

  • “O”

    treeher I totally agree. It is the Browns for gods sake. Throw Ziggy in the mix and see if he can compete or not. Somebody is going to have to step up. Those are some of the biggest shoes to try to fill in the league. But that is the NFL you have injuries and men have to step up and earn there paychecks. Number 1 draft picks usually don’t stay in the oven, especially when there is an injury. What better week to try him out then against the Browns. With there wopping 6 point performance last week.

  • chris

    Guys, you’re right that Ziggy should be told to sink or swim. I’ve seen enough of Kirschke to know he stinks. If you’ve got 1st round talent, you need to man up right now. I know we have a complicated defense but Ziggy was one of the first picks signed so if 6 months of studying isn’t enough time to at least be useful, that’s pretty bad.

    On the other hand, a superstar HOF talent like Troy Polamalu rode the bench his rookie year because the D was so complex. If a guy like that can’t start, can we expect more out of Ziggy?

  • Svenhoek

    Safety, especially the way Polamalu plays it, is more complex than being on the line. Not saying its not a hard or confusing role to play, but what it really comes down to is opening or closing gaps in the offensive line, not focusing on which zone to go into, which man to cover, when to blitz, etc.

    Again, not taking from the position, but a first rounder should be able to come in 6 weeks into a season and open or close holes.