For all 32 NFL teams, injuries are simply an unavoidable aspect of training camp. After having several months off, players get their first exposure to real football during the warmest time of the year — injuries are going to happen.
For the Steelers, a particular group of players seem to be having the most trouble staying healthy.
Rookies getting banged up has been the theme in Pittsburgh after just a few full days of practice. Three out of the four players Pittsburgh selected within the first three rounds of this year’s draft went down with injuries over the weekend.
Second-round pick Juju Smith-Schuster suffered an ankle sprain during Friday’s practice, but is not expected to be out for long. When elaborating on the rookie receiver’s status going forward, Mike Tomlin said he will be out a “number of days”. With Martavis Bryant still not fully reinstated and Sammie Coates recovering from knee surgery, Smith-Schuster has the opportunity to earn valuable reps if he can get back on the field quickly.
Fellow rookie Cameron Sutton, one of Pittsburgh’s two third-round picks this year, went down with an injury on Saturday. Tomlin described it as a lower-body issue that “doesn’t appear to be significant”. The coach didn’t say when Sutton will return, but it is assumed he won’t miss much time.
Perhaps the most unfortunate camp injury thus far is the one that has sidelined rookie running back James Conner. Conner, the team’s other third-round pick, was making quite an impression before going down with a shoulder injury. He was sent back to Pittsburgh for further testing, which usually isn’t a good sign. But, as Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported this evening, the running back received news that the injury is only “minor”, and he could be back as early as next week.
Conner only having to miss a week or so is great news for Pittsburgh. With Le’Veon Bell still holding out from training camp, the depth at the position has already taken a hit; they can’t afford to be without another running back.
Thankfully for the Steelers, none of the rookies should miss too much time. It’s good news for a team that will need its young players — rookies included — to step up this season in order to make a Super Bowl run.