Ben Roethlisberger dealt with a slew of injuries this season, just like the Steelers as a team.
Designed by Ben Howard/Post-Gazette
A breakdown of each injury the Steelers had to manage this season.
By Ray Fittipaldo / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The 2015 season ended last Sunday in Denver. It didn't end on the Sunday afternoon in August when All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey was lost for the season in a preseason game against the Packers. It didn't end on the AstroTurf inside Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis in September when Ben Roethlisberger was knocked out of the lineup for a month with a knee injury or when All-Pro running back Le'Veon Bell was lost for the season in Week 8 against the Bengals. Or when, well, you get the picture. For the Steelers, it was always "next man up." Living by the mantra head coach Mike Tomlin continually repeats as a matter of fact, or habit, the Steelers overcame injuries to many of their top players to finish with a 10-6 record and a second consecutive playoff appearance. "We dealt with a lot of issues this year, a lot of injuries, a lot of next man up, people going down." Roethlisberger said. "A lot of teams just kind of quit, and we didn't. We stepped up and got to this point." Eleven starters, three current or former All-Pros among them, missed games due to injuries this season. Here is a detailed account of the injuries the Steelers had to overcome to get to the AFC playoffs.
Ben Roethlisberger, left knee sprain* (Week 3 @ St. Louis), 4 missed games
In addition to not playing in four games, the franchise quarterback missed parts of five others due to his injuries. Steelers coaches have stressed to Roethlisberger the importance of not taking unnecessary hits in the past and that conversation will happen again after three of the injuries occurred when he tried to extend plays. The Steelers were 2-2 in games Roethlisberger did not play, the difference between being the AFC North division champion and having to go on the road in the playoffs.
* Roethlisberger sustained three additional serious injuries that did not cause him to miss a full game: left foot sprain, Week 9 vs. Raiders; head injury, Week 11 at Seattle; right shoulder sprain, Wild Card game at Bengals.
Le'Veon Bell, right knee MCL tear (Week 8 vs. Cincinnati), 10 missed games
The Steelers have yet to play a playoff game with their All-Pro running back in uniform. Bell had consecutive season-ending knee injuries against the Bengals (Week 17, 2014). With his rookie contract expiring after the 2016 season, can the team afford to invest in the dynamic but often-injured playmaker?
DeAngelo Williams, right foot sprain (Week 17 @ Cleveland), 2 missed games
Rushed for 907 yards when Bell was suspended or injured, giving the Steelers the depth they desired after they finished the 2014 season without a viable backup. However, Williams' injury in the last game of the regular season proved costly when the Steelers needed a veteran back to close out a potential victory at Denver in the divisional playoff.
Antonio Brown, concussion (Wild Card @ Cincinnati), 1 missed game
The two-time All-Pro receiver had played in 55 consecutive games before missing the playoff game in Denver. He is one of the best-conditioned athletes in the NFL, but his concussion proves there is not a way to prevent head injuries other than safety initiatives. If he and Roethlisberger can stay healthy for 16 games next season Brown could challenge the NFL record for receiving yards in a season.
The veteran tight end has been remarkably durable during his 11-year career. When he did not play against Indianapolis in Week 12 it was only the eighth time in his career (168 games) that he missed a game due to injury. But Miller will turn 34 in October and is entering the final year of his contract. How much longer can he be the reliable stalwart?
Maurkice Pouncey, left leg fractured tibia (Preseason vs. Green Bay), 18 missed games
The All-Pro center has now missed 33 of the team's past 50 games. In 2013, he missed the final 15 games after a major knee injury in the season opener. Pouncey is a two-time All-Pro and it goes without saying keeping him healthy should be a priority. He is signed to a contract that pays him nearly $9 million a season through 2019. The Steelers have to do everything in their power to limit his exposure to unnecessary hits in training camp and the preseason this summer.
Kelvin Beachum, left knee ACL tear (Week 6 vs. Arizona), 12 missed games
It was an unfortunate injury for the starting left tackle. He was in the final year of his rookie contract. He would have earned a lucrative contract on the free-agent market. Now his price is lowered, and that could work in the Steelers' favor. Bringing him back on a one-year deal could be beneficial for both sides. If not, Alejandro Villanueva would enter the 2016 season as the starting left tackle.
Stephon Tuitt, right knee MCL sprain (Week 6 vs. Arizona), 2 missed games
The second-year defensive end developed into one of the team's best defenders in 2015. He recorded 6½ sacks, only a half-sack behind team sacks leader and fellow end Cam Heyward, and his first career interception. What his injury reinforced to the Steelers, however, was how their lack of depth at end must be addressed in the offseason.
Will Allen, sprained left ankle (Week 5 @ San Diego), 3 games missed
The veteran safety was signed to provide depth at safety, but he was forced into a starter's role when Shamarko Thomas could not nail down the job in the preseason. Allen, who will turn 34 in June, played well at times. But the Steelers, even if they bring him back on another one-year deal, have to be in the market for the strong safety of the future in free agency or the draft.
Ryan Shazier, shoulder (Week 2 vs. San Francisco), 4 games missed
When the second-year inside linebacker is healthy, he is one of the best young defensive playmakers in the game. He showcased that in the wild-card game in Cincinnati when he had 13 tackles and two forced fumbles. But injuries have prevented him from becoming a star. He missed eight games as a rookie with knee and ankle injuries, and he showed up on the injury report for the second half of this past season with knee issues. He is a future Pro Bowler if injuries don't derail his career.
Shaun Suisham, left knee ACL tear (Preseason vs. Minnesota), 18 games missed
The veteran kicker is under contract through 2018, but he is a candidate to be traded because of the emergence of first-year kicker Chris Boswell, who made 29 of his 32 field goal attempts during the regular season. Boswell is younger, cheaper and has a stronger leg. If the Steelers cannot trade Suisham, they would have $3.3 million in dead money if they release him this summer.
Ray Fittipaldo: email@example.com and Twitter @rayfitt1.
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