The Steelers walked out of Miami today with a 23-22 victory, but may have left one of its most important parts of the defense in the whirlpool. Defensive end Aaron Smith suffered what NFL.com has characterized as a torn triceps muscle, which will most likely keep Smith out for the remainder of the season.
This is bad news for a defense that up to this point in the season had been very lucky to remain injury-free. Should this be a season-ending injury, it may very well be the end of the road for the 12-year veteran.
Weighing into that decision would most likely be the fact that he suffered another season-ending shoulder injury during Week 5 of last season.
Smith is backed up by second-year player and 2009's first-round draft choice Ziggy Hood. Hood is a capable replacement but is still developing and is not going to be the force, particularly in the pass-rush, that Smith had been.
While the injury to Smith last year was compounded by the loss of strong safety Troy Polamalu, and having him sidelined played a major part in defense finishing the 2009 season ranked 26th for total yardage against, giving up 300 yards per game.
In the past three weeks, defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has been going more and more to a three- and four-man pass-rush scheme and not relying as much on the blitz. With Smith out, I expect that the Steelers are going to have to re-evaluate this. Not a bad thing in my book, and it may be the silver lining in all of this.
Here is hoping that Ziggy Hood can elevate his game sooner rather than later because he's going to be front-and-center for next week's game against the New Orleans Saints.
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