Football injuries happen. Some might be preventable and others are the result of high speed crashes between people. At first it seems like the Steelers cornerbacks were getting more than their fair share this year. After I looked at the roster, the recently released depth chart, and looked back at the injuries from camp, I think there is cause for concern.
The Steelers roster has eight cornerbacks and four defensive backs and most of those twelve are listed as cornerbacks on the depth chart. We know that the second, third and “other” tiers will get the majority of the work during the first preseason game this Saturday against the Giants at Heinz Field. However, among those tiers there is cause for concern.
Of the first tier, Ike Taylor is an 11-year veteran and Cortez Allen just had what the Steelers call “minor” knee surgery. That’s reason one to be concerned. Ike Taylor is one of the “aging” defensive players who people are beginning to question how much is in the tank and Allen is already starting the season at less than 100%. This is more than being beat up from practice. Taylor may have a healthy, productive season and that would be great. It’s hard to predict.
In the second tier, Curtis Brown is listed at left and went off the field on Tues, Aug 6th with a twisted ankle. It may be no big deal but when those kind of injuries surface, I’m always concerned that they might plague the player throughout the season. The right cornerback is William Gay, who returned to the Steelers after a year with the Arizona Cardinals. Some have questioned why the Steelers would resign him, but he’s a mid-tier veteran and his experience in the LeBeau system should be valuable.
The third tier is list as DeMarcus Van Dyke on the left but he injured his hamstring about a week ago and Coach Tomlin told Ed Bouchette of the Pittsbugh Post-Gazette that Van Dyke could be out “for a while.” Josh Victorian rounds out the depth chart on the right side.
Listed as “other” are Buddy Jackson, who the Steelers just claimed off waivers from the Kansas City Chiefs on Aug 1st, Terry Hawthorne, who injured his knee about a week ago, Devin Smith, who was signed yesterday (Aug 7th), Isaiah Green, and Ryan Steed, who was signed Jul 30th.
In case you are missing these names: Justin King was released due to a season-ending injury and Nigel Malone was signed in the beginning of June and released on Aug 3rd. I thought I saw a tweet that Malone was having conditioning issues, but I don’t see it anymore. Either way, Malone was picked up by the Denver Broncos.
So, is there reason for concern? Well, of the 6 players listed at first, second, and third string, three have injuries. They all happen to be listed at the left side too, which seems very coincidental. Most of the “other” players are in their rookie or first year. Three of the five (Buddy Jackson, Devin Smith and Ryan Steed) were signed within the last week to 10 days and have not had the benefit of walking through the system in the spring OTAs nor had the plays to study in between those OTAs and camp.
So, yes, I think there is reason for concern. If Cortez Allen’s knee injury keeps him from starting, will they move William Gay over to the left side and have him start with Ike Taylor? According to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, that is is just what they are doing in practice. However, Dulac thinks Gay is better suited at Nickel and not the outside, so how will this all shake out if the starters aren’t ready by the regular season? It is a concern, and at this point, age is the least of the Steelers’ worries at the cornerback position. They are starting out with a gimpy left side, based on this depth chart. Now, I fully expect this to be shuffled if the players don’t heal as expected. Either way, it’s tough to start the season with an injury because you have the risk of never being “quite right.” William Gay and Josh Victorian are both healthy at his point. Will that be enough to shore up the cornerback position? The “other” section of players have some talent, but the lack of experience is a concern as well. I think the cornerback position could be the weak point of the secondary this year. Maybe I’m not looking at this with the right mindset, but I will be watching this position closely during the preseason to see what shakes out.