Friday, January 18, 2013

Art Rooney II: The State Of The Steelers, pt. 3: Injuries

With all due respect to every sideshow, Atlantic City, and downtown Las Vegas "magician" ever, the real magic words still are "please" and "thank you."

Last Wednesday, when Pittsburgh Steelers team president Art Rooney II held his postseason 'State of the Steelers' address he pointed out several areas of contention that led to the team's failure in 2012. The last article surrounded the many turnovers - those on offense and the lack of those on defense. -

The final article deals with the part of the interview which arguably 'frustrates' and confounds the Steelers organization and its fans the most, that of its rash of injuries: "We have to look at everything we're doing," Rooney II said, "and we will look at everything we're doing, from the training and conditioning side of things, from a practice side of things and see if there are things we can do to get better." -

Please and thank you.

As Bob Labriola of Steelers Digest noted in the article on, the Steelers were a M.A.S.H. unit again this season: "Troy Polamalu missed nine games. Rashard Mendenhall missed seven. Marcus Gilbert missed 11. Mike Adams missed six. Ben Roethlisberger missed three, as did Antonio Brown. James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley were on the field together for only nine games."

"David Johnson," Labriola continued, "went on the injured reserve list before the start of the regular season, and No. 1 pick David DeCastro didn't come off that list until the regular season was 13 games old." As a matter of fact, Steelers players missed over 100 games due to injury, with 11 players ending the season on the Injured Reserve list.

The Steelers offensive line alone started seven different line combinations. They started nine different offensive line combinations in 2011. Now with guard Willie Colon hurt again and Ramon Foster, Doug Legursky and Max Starks all being unrestricted free agents, major questions once surround the depth of the OLine and how this will affect offseason moves. Even prompting some to say that it needs to happen sooner rather than later. -

The player on the Oline that many are pointing at is Colon. Considering his injury history, it may just be time to cut ties and continue the Kelvin Beachum experiment. Cutting Colon outright will save $1.2 million and it is something the Steelers need to think about doing. If he had stayed healthy/healthier this season, he might have received the benefit of the doubt. Now there's just just plain doubt. -

According to team GM Kevin Colbert, the Steelers, per one study taken, had fewer injuries that some playoff teams had. "We were not the only team that had injuries. Teams that had more had better results." He said the amount of injuries "really wasn't unique to us."

That's the problem. Yes, injuries happen - they're an unavoidable part of the game - but it's the recent consistency of them and how the Steelers have reacted to them that is of concern. We've already touched on the fact that the OLine has been especially ravaged and what may be expected to happen, but there was more of what seemed to be a lack of mental toughness.

How often was the 'standard not the standard?' Wasn't the 'next man up' seemingly sometimes absent when roll was called? As was said, all teams face injuries. How they react, as individuals and as a team, speaks volumes. And, as much as Steelers fans may not like reading this, the team that tends to speak the loudest in this regard is the New England Patriots.

In a league where a team's hopes crash and burn because of one key injury, the Patriots' version of the "next man up" continues to produce winning results year after year. Patriots insider Tom E. Curran talks about that quality here:

There has to be a mental toughness to go far. It takes time to develop, but that's where the veterans who have been through the tough days help to pass it on to the younger players. It must become contagious, permeate the entirety of the team. It's something that was missing with the Steelers this season.

As former Buffalo Bills and Washington Redskins defensive end Bruce Smith once said in an interview, there's a difference between playing "hurt" and playing "injured." Playing hurt is something players often do. Like he said, players can be dinged up in some fashion from week two on. Playing injured, however, in the most cases, is detrimental to the team and usually only serves to worsen the injury.

Winning is a mindset - 10% is physical and 90% is mental. Which also means knowing when your offseason regimen may not be working. Like as brought out in part two of this series, Woodley has been offered to work with Ike Taylor's trainer Tom Shaw since Woodley's offseason routine...aww, who are we kidding? What offseason routine?

Another who may consider adjusting his offseason regimen to aid in durability throughout the season is Polamalu. Especially because of his wonderful reckless abandon, he has seen fewer field time the last few seasons.

The website (Pitts Burgh-Jedi on Facebook and @Pittsburgh_Jedi on Twitter) offered up an assessment on Polamalu's offseason ritual.

"I think a lot of [Polamalu's] getting hurt is because he's not training using the same standards as everyone else," they surmised. "He does holistic-style training with no weights at all. As a younger, more resilient man, he could get by [with] doing that. At 30 years old, 10 years in the league, and 10 years full of big hits and collisions, it seems logical to say his sort of wear-and-tear calls for something additional. He's still huge, but with gravity-based training that depends on using your body-weight as resistance, it means there's a ceiling you can hit with your training."

People are training harder than him using weights and he's not holding up against their hits....maybe it's time to use some more health science and not so much of these alternative, natural methods," they continued. "A half-baked theory, but knowing the correlation of proper training and risk of injury, it holds some water, if not a lot of it."

It just might. But, whether because of training, conditioning, mental toughness, offseason regimens or even because of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement rules, there has to be a reason or conglomerate of reasons to why the Steelers have been snake bitten the last few seasons.

"I would like to see us have some of that [CBA] loosened up a little bit, but that's not something completely in our control," Rooney II pointed out.

Regardless, as he said, "people are always coming up with new ideas on how to train, and so we'll look at all of that."

Please and thank you.