Like many NFL franchises, the Pittsburgh Steelers watched one of their players suffer a season ending injury. This injury, while not to a starter, did take out promising undrafted rookie free agent guard Nik Embernate with a torn ACL / MCL.
In his place, the Steelers signed unrestricted free agent tack D’Anthony Batiste (Arizona Cardinals). Ironically, it is hard to tell which part of this transaction will mean more to fans. While Batiste does have starting experience, he struggled with pass protection in Arizona and must prove he can step in and contribute, even in a back-up role.
The addition of Batiste to go along with veteran Guy Whimper does not instill tremendous confidence in fans, as both have struggled during the NFL careers to protect the quarterback. Of course, part of the draw could be their experience, considering the youth along the front line, with 27-year-old Ramon Foster being the elder statesman. Time will tell how things shake out once preseason games begin.
Another injury, while not serious could open the doors for some young linebackers. Jason Worilds, who missed practice Friday with a toe injury, opened the door for rookie Jarvis Jones to show what he can do. While Jones has shown some flashes, it is expected that he will take over that position at some point either in 2013 or in training camp for 2014. Worilds, a former second round selection has battled nagging injuries throughout his career and cannot afford for this one to linger if expects to hold of Jones.
This injury could also give more reps to a couple of undrafted rookies Adrian Robinson (2012/Temple) and Alan Baxter (2013/Norther Illinois). Last season Robinson was the camp surprise, earning a roster spot by showing some pass rush ability off the edge. This season, that role appears to have been taken by Baxter, who has shown tremendous speed off the corner as a pass rusher.
While Baxter has shown athleticism and speed, he will have to prove he can set the edge against the run game, something that should give the bigger player Robinson a slight advantage once preseason games begin. No matter what, this should be a great battle throughout camp and one to watch.
Another injury that may worry fans, but is not being viewed with long term concern is the bruised knee suffered by camp favorite running back Le’Veon Bell. The rookie second round selection out of Michigan State has been everything the team and fans could have hoped for at the running back position. If healthy, there is no doubt Bell could definitely be the opening day starter.
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