Steelers Preseason Injuries, Other News And Notes

All-pro center Maurkice Pouncey anchors Steelers offensive line. Photo courtesy of nfl.com
All-pro center Maurkice Pouncey anchors Steelers offensive line. Photo courtesy of nfl.com

As soon as Steelers All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey went down with a broken fibula, early in the Steelers’ preseason win over Green Bay last Sunday, the issue of shortening the preseason schedule came quickly to the forefront once again. Just a short time later, Stephon Tuitt and backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski left the game with injuries as well. On the surface, that logic seems to make sense, but in reality it makes no sense at all. These kinds of injuries can happen at anytime, anywhere. A lot of people, who are all for shortening the preseason, are proposing to take two of these games and expanding the regular season to 18 games. That is still the same amount of games being played and it does nothing to prevent injuries that can happen at any time. To prevent injuries that happen during the last week of training camp, should training camps be shortened by two weeks as well? How far does this logic go? If the NFL never would’ve went from a 14 to a 16 game schedule, then Le’Veon Bell never would have injured his knee. The truth is, if it would have been the number four center on the depth chart who got injured, instead of Pouncey, the reaction would have been, “oh well, he wasn’t gonna make the team anyway”, if anyone would have even noticed at all.

Football always has been and always will be a contact sport, and injuries, whenever they occur, are part of the game and the cost of doing business in the NFL. It’s always unfortunate to lose a player the caliber of a Maurkice Pouncey, whether it’s in the third preseason game or on the eighth offensive play in the first game of the regular season. As much as fans seem to despise preseason, that’s where you find and develop the depth on your roster to replace the injured. How important is preseason? Terry Bradshaw was once asked about the importance of preseason and he thought it was as important as the foundation that your house is built on. Two preseason games is not nearly enough to give veterans the work they need or to see what a team might have in the way of late round draft picks or with the undrafted rookies and camp invites. Four games seems to be the minimal amount of time needed to piece together the final 53-man roster. The only change that really needs to be made with preseason football is to quit charging regular season prices for the tickets.

Steelers Sign Vick And Legursky

In the wake of injuries to center Maurkice Pouncey and quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, the Steelers have signed their former undrafted rookie free agent Guard/Center Doug Legursky and 35-year old quarterback Michael Vick to contracts. Legursky, 29, was a versatile interior lineman for the Steelers from 2009-2012 and made the start at center for the Steelers in Super Bowl XLV, in place of an injured Maurkice Pouncey, and did a solid job. He left Pittsburgh after the 2012 season and signed with Buffalo as a free agent. After two seasons there, he spent last year in San Diego, where he only saw action in two games. In his first go-around wearing the Black ‘n’ Gold, Legursky saw some time as a fullback in goal line situations, most notably blowing up San Diego linebacker Shaun Philips, leading the way on a Rashard Mendenhall touchdown during a Monday night game. He will provide quality depth at both interior line positions and could potentially earn the starting job at center until Pouncey returns, around week 10.

The signing of Michael Vick was the headliner for Steeler Nation on Tuesday, and it caused a division within the fanbase that hasn’t been seen since the days of Kordell Stewart. Michael Vick was signed to replace backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, who was placed on IR after injuring his finger and dislocating his shoulder as well, in Sunday’s win over the Green Bay Packers. It seems the signing of Michael Vick has driven some fans to burn their Steelers jerseys and to declare that they are done following the team. Everyone is most assuredly entitled to their own opinions on this matter, regardless of how hypocritical and mind boggling it may be. Despite the fact that Vick owned his actions, did his twenty months in prison and had greatly matured over the last six years, that evidently is not good enough. Perhaps these fans fail to remember that their very own quarterback had problems of his own in the past, before he matured. Maybe they forgot about their hero, James Harrison, who had a domestic violence issue that involved a cell phone and a female’s head, or that Ernie “Fats” Holmes shot at a State Police helicopter while under the influence of some mind altering substance. They talk about these Steelers with reverence and yet scorn Michael Vick in the same breath.

To those who choose to exit Steeler Nation because of the signing of Michael Vick, I’d like to say you’ll be missed, but I’m not sure your departures will be noticed. You’re not real fans for one thing, and secondly, the true fans of Steeler Nation will be focused as the Steelers begin their climb up the Stairway to Seven. If you all could just leave your tickets and Steelers stuff on the way out for the rest of us to divide up evenly. For everyone else, the signing of Vick makes sense for a number of reasons. Michael Vick has had success in a quick passing offense, the type he was in during his time in Atlanta. It is what Todd Haley has used to keep Ben healthy the last couple of years. His accuracy is more than adequate up to around 20 to 25 yards, which fits the offensive scheme of Haley. Vick is still mobile and can avoid pressure. Unlike earlier in his career, when he is on the move, he is looking to make a play down field, much like Ben. A third reason that the Vick signing is good, is that he is 35. He is no longer the immature but freakish athlete, but rather a wiser and freakish athlete who has matured and grown from his mistakes. Michael Vick certainly appreciates his second chance in the NFL and has grown to become an unselfish and solid locker room guy that young players can learn from.

Notes From The Green Bay Game

Aside from this game being the first win of the preseason, there were some good things that the Steelers’ defense can take from it and build on. After an ominous start to the game, the defense really picked things up the rest of the way. They recorded six sacks, including an early safety that looked an awful lot like a group hug of Aaron Rodgers. Two of those sacks came from first round picks Jarvis Jones and Bud Dupree, who seemed to carry his aggression and his fights from practice over to the game. The upcoming game against Buffalo will be a good test to see whether the pressure they were able to get against the Packers was for real or an early aberration. On offense Tyler Murphy and Shakim Phillips showed that they may be worth keeping around on the practice squad by making clutch grabs and showing off some nice moves. The Steelers have done well with developing wide receivers in the last few years, and these two could be the next ones to have an impact. They are definitely worth keeping an eye on.

Last but not least, the secondary started looking like a unit that can pull its own weight. Shamarko Thomas and Cortez Allen put together nice but unspectacular games. They both made the plays they should have, which after last season, is an improvement. The key for those two is that they looked like they were playing with confidence, and if Allen can keep his, the secondary could end up being much stronger than most believe.

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