John Clayton of ESPN recently discussed how teams around the league have dealt with the massive amounts of injuries along their offensive lines in recent seasons. I certainly cannot blame Clayton for wanting to focus on that specific subject, particularly because offensive linemen around the league have “dropped like flies” due to injuries over the last couple of months.
The disturbing trend of injuries to starters and constant turnover in the offensive trenches has in turn left franchises around the league struggling to find and develop capable backups to add to their rosters. In fact, Clayton cited that the average NFL team used 7.53 different starters along their offensive line last fall! The most telling stat of all however was that only three teams, out of a possible 32, had five players who made all 16 of their team’s regular season starts during the 2012 campaign!
Although Clayton did not mention the Steelers specifically in his article, “Steeler Nation” knows that the Pittsburgh’s offensive line has been nothing short of a “carousel of madness” during recent seasons.
I understand that the picture above might be a tad hilarious yet cruel (tip of the cap “Kissing Suzy Kolber”), but let’s just take a look at what has transpired over the last two seasons along Pittsburgh’s offensive line and how it perfectly reflects what Clayton had to say:
In 2011, the Steelers had Willie Colon (starting right tackle) go down during Week 1 with a torn triceps, Johnathan Scott (starting left tackle) proved to be a liability and was benched early that year, and Chris Kemoeatu (starting left guard) was plagued by injuries and poor play. Overall, the Steelers had nine offensive linemen start for them that year. Unfortunately for them, the “Offensive Line Shuffle” only bled into last season.
Before the 2012 campaign even began, the Steelers lost David DeCastro for three months due to an MCL injury during a preseason game. Colon, who started at left guard last year, also missed four games due to an injury too, and the right tackle position saw three different starters over Pittsburgh’s 16 regular season games. Marcus Gilbert and Kelvin Beachum each started five, while Mike Adams started six before he suffered a season-ending injury towards the end of the year.
While the offensive line injuries and constant turnover have not been the only reasons why the Steelers have had issues over the last two seasons, they certainly have played a large part in their offense’s inability to perform on a consistent basis. Continuity is key, particularly with a young and still-developing unit like Pittsburgh’s. Thus, it would be a huge boost for the Steelers if they were able to see all five projected starters (Adams, Foster, Pouncey, DeCastro, Gilbert) play and most importantly play together this fall.
Unlike in years past, the Steelers have one of the youngest yet most talented offensive lines in the league heading into this season. Sadly, I still fear that devastating injuries could once again ruin this unit’s chance to congeal in 2013. If this group can avoid the types of big injuries which have plagued the unit in the past though, then I have have some high hopes that they can realize their fantastic potential and will avoid being just another unfortunate statistic.
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