Pittsburgh Steelers: 10 Injured Players the Steelers Need Healthy in 2011
In the Super Bowl alone, the Steelers were missing both starting tackles from 2009, starting center Maurkice Pouncey, Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu were hobbled and then they lost rookie receiver Emmanuel Sanders early in the game.
These injuries are not an excuse for the Super Bowl loss, however; the Steelers got there and played well enough to win it all without being at full strength and it will be great to get everyone back healthy in 2011.
Here is a list of all the players who either did not finish the season on the active roster, or just came out of the Super Bowl hurt that the Steelers will look to get at 100 percent this coming season (if they ever figure out the CBA).
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Daniel Sepulveda is one of the best punters in the league when he’s healthy; however, he has had trouble doing just that in his career to this point.
Sepulveda missed the entire season in 2008 with a knee injury and then missed the latter part of 2010 with another knee injury.
There has been speculation that the Steelers might not bring Sepulveda back in 2011 due to the injury concerns.
If he can stay healthy, however, he gives the Steelers special teams a huge lift and the team an advantage they don’t have without him in terms of field position.
Aaron Smith/Brett Keisel
I’m combining defensive ends Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel because I feel the Steelers are best set to deal with the loss with this position, although both are important to the team.
The defensive line was still as dominant as ever in 2010, and that was with Keisel missing five games and Smith missing all but the first six games.
Ziggy Hood stepped up in 2010 and showed why he was the Steelers' first-round pick in 2009 and the team just drafted Cameron Heyward in the first round of the 2011 draft.
If Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel can stay healthy for the full season, with a rotation of Ziggy Hood and Cameron Heyward, the Steelers defensive line will be dominant again in 2011.
There has been a lot of debate on whether or not the Steelers are even going to bring back Willie Colon whenever the lockout ends.
Although I cannot predict that, I can say that the Steelers offensive line would be much better with Willie Colon than without.
Willie could slide down to right guard for a season and then kick back out to tackle when Flozell Adams retires.
This would allow the Steelers to let young offensive linemen such as Chris Scott, and rookies Marcus Gilbert and Keith Williams to continue to learn and not just be thrown out there to start.
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Emmanuel Sanders had pretty much taken Antwaan Randle El’s spot in the lineup before leaving the Super Bowl in the second quarter with a broken foot.
The Steelers offense just looked different without Sanders out there and he actually had surgery on both of his feet in the offseason.
Sanders made the decision to have surgery on both after doctors warned that the same break could happen to his other foot next season if not taken care of.
The Steelers need Sanders to come back healthy to a good group of receivers the team has in Mike Wallace, Hines Ward and Antonio Brown.
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Ike Taylor is by far the Steelers' best cornerback, and will still be as long as he comes back to the Steelers in 2011; however, it’s not set in stone that he does return.
If Ike leaves then Bryant McFadden would probably step in as the Steelers' top veteran corner and he was a solid No. 2 guy for the team when he stayed healthy in 2010.
McFadden was forced to leave the Super Bowl due to injury, and that left the Steelers with William Gay out there getting burned by anyone the Packers put on the field.
The Steelers have a good group of young corners on the team who would benefit from having a healthy McFadden, and Ike Taylor for that matter, in 2011.
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James Harrison actually played in every one of the Steelers games in 2010 and only after the Super Bowl did we find out that he would be having surgery on his back.
The Steelers still have LaMarr Woodley as one of the premiere pass-rushers in the league; however, the defense would definitely miss Harrison’s ferocity on the defense.
Although Jason Worilds and Christopher Carter are good young guys, I don’t think they would be ready to immediately step in for Harrison, which means Lawrence Timmons would have to switch to the outside and have Larry Foote step into the middle.
Even though Roger Goodell has made it his mission to try and stop James Harrison, I expect Harrison to continue terrorizing quarterbacks as soon as the lockout ends.
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Max Starks has been a solid offensive lineman his entire career for the Steelers, starting out at right tackle before moving to the left side for the past few seasons.
After already losing starting right tackle Willie Colon for the season in preseason, the Steelers were forced to put Starks on IR half way through 2010 with a neck injury.
Neck injuries are always scary and can be career-threatening; however, Starks seems to be fully recovered and ready to go for the start of 2011.
If the Steelers can get to the Super Bowl with the offensive line they had last season, imagine what they can do with both Starks and Colon back this season.
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Maurkice Pouncey took the starting center job in Pittsburgh and should have won the NFL’s Rookie of the Year Award.
Pouncey held the Steelers offensive line together all season even when guys were going down to injury all around him.
It was unfortunate to see him get injured in the AFC Championship game and not be able to play in the Super Bowl, and although Doug Legursky did not play bad, things could have been different if Pouncey was on the Steelers line.
I have no doubt that Maurkice Pouncey will have himself ready for the start of 2011 and will continue to anchor the Steelers offensive line for years to come.
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Ben Roethlisberger went from being suspended for the first four games of the 2010 season, to leading the Steelers all the way to the Super Bowl in that same year.
It would have been an even better story if the Steelers had won the Super Bowl; however, it was still a great season and Ben will win a few more in his career.
Among other injuries, Ben broke his foot against Buffalo last season and could end up having to have surgery on it if he continues to feel pain in it.
I never question Ben’s toughness and I know that he’ll do whatever he can to be under center for the Steelers for this season.
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Troy Polamalu had a great season in 2010, which was capped off with him winning the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award.
He is probably the most important player on the Steelers defense and after an injury-plagued 2009, Troy showed in 2010 what he was capable of when healthy.
Troy injured his Achilles' tendon on an interception return in Week 14 against Cincinnati and was not the same player after that in both the regular season and in the playoffs.
It was evident that he was hurt in the Super Bowl and I look forward to seeing a healthy Troy in 2011 lurking in the Steelers secondary.