A Season without Colon Stinks more than Four Games without Roethlisberger
[picapp align=”none” wrap=”false” link=”term=willie+colon&iid=7211176″ src=”http://view1.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/7211176/pittsburgh-steelers/pittsburgh-steelers.jpg?size=500&imageId=7211176″ width=”500″ height=”332″ /]
When my NFL season projections are released, the Pittsburgh Steelers are still likely to be the number one team in them — preliminarily speaking, it wasn’t all that close — but RT Willie Colon’s season ending injury is a big blow that greatly reduces the chances of a super bowl in Pittsburgh.
Colon’s injury really stings because the Steelers do not have built in depth at the tackle position, and almost certainly need to make a trade to avoid having to go with Trai Essex (who was moved to guard — and performed poorly there) back to left tackle, while sliding LT Max Starks to the right side to replace Colon, this according to NFL Network’s Jason La Canfora.
It also hurts because Colon is a franchise performer on the offensive line, the kind of player that the Steelers only have a few of on their offense. It really kills the fantasy value of TE Heath Miller, who will be put into routes on a smaller percentage of passing plays needing to instead assist in pass protection, and hurts the chances of RB Rashard Mendenhall to have a breakout season in his third year.
But the real loser is QB Byron Leftwich, who now needs to find a way to win a few games at the beginning of the year with less than ideal pass protection, after needing to find a way (and failing) to win games last year against some of the best pass defenses in the league.
In the wake of an injury to an established veteran, a team would normally look to it’s younger players to shoulder more responsibility, but after trading Santonio Holmes to the Jets and being without Roethlisberger for the first six four games, the Steelers really only have three young players to count on: Mendenhall, WR Mike Wallace, and G Maurkice Pouncey. Every other player who will suit up and play for the Steelers offense this year is a veteran aged 29 or older. Because of this veteran imbalance, losing one of those veterans creates an imbalance that will just have to be accepted.
The pass blocking will not be as good as it was last year, and the passing game will have fewer dimensions. This injury makes the Ravens, always a threat to have the best defense in the division, also a threat to sport the top offense. And, it might make all the difference in the postseason if the Steelers have to run into a juggernaut like Indianapolis or Tennessee, they probably won’t be able to win on talent alone.
So for all the words that were written about how Ben Roethlisberger’s suspension takes the Steelers out of the running in the AFC North, those people are still wrong. The Steelers are still the favorites; perhaps even still comfortable favorites. However, the Willie Colon injury is a big deal that closes down the margin for error that the Steelers built for themselves with a superior roster, and really puts a lot of pressure square on the shoulders of now-embattled coach Mike Tomlin, who still needs to win games and make the postseason to protect his job. What seemed like a run of the mill task is a lot harder now that the Steelers are a tackle short of a complete offense, and the one tackle still on the trade market (Jared Gaither) is property of their primary rival: the Baltimore Ravens.
The Steelers still have the benefit of time, but this is not a strong situation where they sit on July 1st.