Growing up near Philadelphia, I would get an obnoxious earful from the locals about how this year is going to be different just about every season. You just watch, they'd say. I was berated every Monday for wearing my #83 Heath Miller jersey with black and gold knee socks paired with some awesome tie-dye Steeler sneakers. Oh and did they really run their mouths this year about the "Dream Team" with talent, especially on defense, that was scary good.
Well, so much for that touted Philadelphia "Dream Team."
The Pittsburgh Steelers may have had a sub-par performance against Washington in their first pre-season game, but they sure have people talking after Thursday night's rout of the Eagles. Offense looked great. Defense looked equally as potent. Even our second string looked better than Philly's first teamers. Watching Ben Roethlisberger hook Pro Bowl corner, Asante Samuel, on a pump fake that allowed Antonio Brown to sit wide open in the end zone for a 29-yard strike, brought tears of joy to my eyes.
Yet, despite the sheer pleasure of really whopping the Eagles, I couldn't help but notice a problem that seems to keep creeping back season after season for the Steelers- the durability of that offensive line. How long will it be able to hold up before it crumbles? Every die-hard Steel City fan knows exactly what I'm talking about. Is it possible to make it through just one season with few injuries to the O-Line?
On the very first play from scrimmage, left tackle, Jonathan Scott went down and was shortly followed off the field by his replacement, rookie, Marcus Gilbert, a second round pick out of Florida. Both are said to have hyperextended knees and should be back in no time. However, this still has me wondering about the longevity of a line that has taken quite a hit on the injury front in the past two years. Last year, center Maurkice Pouncey made it through the entire regular season as one of two linemen to start every game, only to sprain his ankle in the AFC title game and miss the Super Bowl. Former tackle Max Starks had to have neck surgery in November, and Pittsburgh's other starting tackle, Willie Colon, was pronounced out for all of last season due to a ruptured Achilles tendon sustained in June at OTA's.
The injury plague has seemed to carry over to this season too with Chris Kemoeatu starting the year on the PUP list (knee). His rehab seems to be going well, as he was activated to practice last week, but he didn't play against Philadelphia, so who knows when he will be game-ready.
Only time will tell if I'm jumping the gun, but I have an eerie feeling that Scott and Gilbert are only foreshadowing what seems to be the inevitable for the Steelers offensive line.
On the upside, I did get to walk around at home today in my Stiller gear, surrounded by dismal looks and shaking heads. In fact, there was silence, a first. Sheer embarrassment forced typically chatty Eagles fans to insert-feet-in-mouths. It was wonderful!