For a young team such as the Cleveland Browns, an injury to an established, veteran player can be costly. With news that LG Eric Steinbach's season is likely over as a result of a back injury, the Browns offensive line suffers a severe loss. The Browns are a team that can ill afford injuries, as the team severely lacks depth at many positions.
While the team does have options to replace Steinbach, none should be considered the caliber of player that Steinbach is. However, while Steinbach's injury is a significant loss, the injury should not be detrimental to the team's season.
At the moment, it appears as though rookie Jason Pinkston will replace Steinbach, although he could face a challenge from veteran John Greco.
If Pinkston is in fact the player that head coach Pat Shurmur chooses to replace Steinbach with, he will be filling a major void. Since his arrival via free agency in 2007, Steinbach and LT Joe Thomas have solidified the left side of the offensive line for the Browns, making it one of the team's strongest units.
Although just a fifth-round pick by the team in April's draft, Pinkston has asserted himself in camp. The Browns drafted Pinkston to provide depth, with the intention of developing him slowly. With Steinbach's unexpected injury, Pinkston may be thrust into a starting position much sooner than anticipated.
Pinkston's transition should be eased by playing between LT Joe Thomas and C Alex Mack, both Pro Bowl players. While Thomas and Mack will not be able to fully compensate for Steinbach's absence, they should both be quality mentors to the young rookie from Pittsburgh. If Shawn Lauvao and Tony Pashos are able to stabilize the right side of the offensive line, as the team expects, then the Browns should still boast a fairly strong line even in Steinbach's absence.
A more experienced Colt McCoy, along with more offensive weapons at his disposal, should also help alleviate the loss of Steinbach.
Fans should certainly not expect Pinkston to perform at the level of Steinbach, given his overall lack of experience. He does, however, possess the physical tools necessary to succeed at this level. Playing between two Pro Bowl players will certainly ease his transition. Steinbach's injury will be felt by the team, but the team has enough depth in order to ensure that his injury will not be catastrophic.