Pre-Season Is Out Of Whack, NFL Sticks It To The Steelers

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Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell injured foot may keep him out 6 to 8 weeks or even longer. Courtesy USA Today images.

I hear it every pre-season. A player gets injured early in camp and it is reported that he will be ready to go when the season starts. Last year Mike Wallace held out all pre-season, reported the week before the first game and started week 1 against the Broncos. James Harrison missed all of the OTA’s, the pre-season, the first 3 games, practiced three times and then played against the Eagles. No doubt if Heath Miller would be ready to go by week 1 he would start as well. Another example is tight end Tony Gonzalez of the Falcons who made an agreement with the Falcons to not have to report until mid August. Gonzalez will be the Falcons starting tight end come week 1.  What I wrote is just a sampling of a common occurrence with almost every team across the league.  If this is the case for those players then why is it necessary for the rest of the players, particularly the veterans, to go through the entire pre-season which is about 6 weeks? Anymore at the rate the players are getting seriously injured it is becoming all to clear that playing 4 pre-season games is 2 games too many.

Clear That Is To Everyone But Goodell

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) has been hit hard and sacked in both pre-season games this year. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

It has gotten to the point for me where I don’t even enjoy the pre-season games anymore-or at least not until the key Steelers players are out of the game. Injuries to the main players are the number one thing I watch for in Steelers pre-season games. Only after the Steelers main starters are removed I can then relax and enjoy the game. I could care less what kind of numbers Roethlisberger puts up or how healthy Polamalu looks now. If any of the Steelers key players get hurt in a pre-season game the entire season is put in jeopardy. I want Roethlisberger and Polamalu to be healthy in week 1. What good does it do for Ben to get sacked and take a physical pounding when it doesn’t even count?  I would like to see Roethlisberger take less of a pounding so he can still be the quarterback 5 years from now. If Roethlisberger goes down injury wise for more than a few weeks – the season is over.

Do The Risks Of Pre-Season Outweigh the Rewards?

The answer is simple: No. It is not necessary to play Ben Roethlisberger into the third quarter tonight. There is way more—way more to lose than to gain. Is it even necessary to play him past the first quarter or even at all? Was it really necessary to play Le’Veon Bell on Monday against the Redskins since only a few days earlier he was experiencing problems with his knee?  Why not hold Bell out until he felt better? What did his 4 carries for 9 yards prove last Monday? Nothing, but the stat that meant the most was Le’Veon Bell suffered a second injury, this one to his foot and is now reported to be out at 6-8 weeks. Bell wasn’t fighting for a spot on the roster. Someone needed to step in and stop Bell from playing. No one did. Just stupid. Players feel the pressure to play and sometimes need to be protected from themselves. Often times when a player tries to play through an injury they over compensate for that injury thus injuring another part of the body.

Four Pre-Season Games Is Two Too Much

Aug 30, 2012; Steelers linebacker Sean Spence (51) is is lost for the season after being injured against the Carolina Panthers during the second half of the 4th pre-season game of 2012. Does anyone remember or care the Steelers won? Everyone remembers the injury though. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

How many of you think it was worth losing Sean Spence – a third round draft choice- in the 4th quarter of a meaning less pre-season game? Or David DeCastro for most of last season from a pre-season injury?  I know injuries happen and rookies like DeCastro and Spence and younger players need pre-season reps to show the coaches what they have in order to start or make the team. But 4 games are 2 too many. If the pre-season would be reduced to 2 games then there is 50% less chance of injuries. Wouldn’t the Steelers liked to have either Spence or DeCastro last season? If there were only 2 pre-season games last season the chances would have increased greatly that at least one of them would have been available.

World Class Conditioning

Through 1977 The NFL used to play 14 games. There used to be 6 pre-season games – almost a half season -and the players used the pre-season to get in shape for the season. There were no OTA’s, off season conditioning programs, no elite nutrition and fitness training regimen’s or facilities where players can go train, eat and live for weeks or months with world class nutrition and fitness instruction. Players worked actual jobs back then: car salesman, insurance, lawyers. They didn’t lift weights in the off season. They worked. The long pre-season was needed.

Now with the money these players make today conditioning is their off season job. It is rare when a player comes to camp out of shape because chances are he won’t be there long. World Class conditioning is why someone like James Harrison can practice 3 times after being off for almost 10 months and then play at the same level with the best players in the world.  Do we really need to see what Polamalu can do in the pre-season? Kiesel? Ike Taylor? Clark? Antonio Brown? Timmons? Woodley?

Need a Rebel                                                                                        

49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) has taken 16 snaps and and played in only 2 series in two games despite having 9 years less experience than Ben Roethlisberger. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

The pre-season is for the unknown, not the known. I am still waiting for that one rebel coach who doesn’t play his key players past the first quarter or at all in any pre-season game thus keeping his players fresh, healthy and ready to go week 1, not banged and injured with 17 grueling weeks to go. 49ers Head Coach Jim Harbaugh might be that rebel coach because so far Colin Kaepernick has only played 2 series and 16 total snaps in 2 games. We’ll see what he does with Kaepernick in week 3.

49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh might be the rebel coach who changes the thinking on how much his key players like qb Colin Kaepernick play in the pre-season. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Going into camp most organizations already know 40 to 45 players that already have a roster spot locked up. The preseason practices and games determine who the remaining final roster (53) and practice squad (8) players will be. So these 4 pre-season games really are about are two things: money and the remaining roster and practice squad spots and in some cases who will fill a starting spot or two.  Despite the safety of the game that Goodell preaches, does he really believe 4 games are needed to determine at most 10-12 roster spots?

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Tags: 2013 Preseason Ben Roethlisberger David DeCastro Jim Harbaugh Le'Veon Bell NFL-Preason Too Long Pittsburgh Steelers Roger Goodell Sean Spence