It's hard to avoid discussing the injury bug. It's kind of the prominent elephant in the room, and it sits there all preseason long. Only injury bugs are a lot meaner than elephants - maybe we should start calling it the rattlesnake in the room?
Miller set to return from PUP
With all the dreadful injury news the Steelers have endured lately, they may finally have received the kind they'd welcome.
Here's the good news: the team plans to remove Heath Miller from the PUP list before the season kicks off. Before undergoing offseason surgery to repair a torn ACL last year, Miller set career-best marks in receiving yardage (816) and touchdown receptions (8). His 71 receptions were just five shy of the 76 he accumulated in 2009. He's an enormous staple of the team's passing attack, especially since their backup tight end Matt Spaeth is set to be sidelined for a couple months with a foot injury. Plus, Plaxico Burress' season (if not career) came to a premature end after he suffered a torn rotator cuff injury last week, which left Pittsburgh with little proven depth at WR. Had the Steelers gone into the season with Miller unavailable, it's hard to envision Ben Roethlisberger putting up many productive outings. He just wouldn't have had the help available.
Now for the bad news: just because the Steelers might activate Miller before Week 1 doesn't necessarily mean he'll hit the ground running right away. He may not even play at all until a few weeks into the regular season. Had Miller remained on the PUP list through the end of August, the earliest league rules would have permitted him to return would have been Week 7. The reason the Steelers activated him was in case he ends up healthy enough to return by, say, Week 3 or 4, they at least have the option to play him then instead of waiting until the end of October when they may find themselves in a huge hole.
I'm still very pessimistic about all this working out. A big reason Miller produced was the threat of a deep ball going to receivers like Mike Wallace created more space over the middle of the field. Wallace now gets to work on his sun tan year-round in Miami, Pittsburgh's current receivers don't scare anyone, and Miller isn't a Jimmy Graham type of tight end who can inherently take over a game. I see rocky times ahead for Pittsburgh's passing game, which also means defenses may cheat to stop the run. Lots of luck, Le'Veon Bell.
That didn't take long. Sidney Rice is already back to full speed at Seaawks practice after jetting off to Switzerland to undergo some kind of mystery knee procedure that took all of 20 minutes to complete. When the injury was first reported, some speculation thought it may be serious. Guess not. Who exactly is Rice's mystery Swiss doctor, and how did he or she fix the problem faster than even Mr. Miyagi from the Karate Kid could have?
The Seahawks need Rice back since he's really their only reliable receiving option to open the season. Even though they passed for a fair amount of yards in their preseason opener against San Diego, looking deeper into the numbers tells a story that indicates they were simply spreading the ball around and trying to see if anyone could emerge as a potential starter. I liked what I saw from Stephen Williams, but I need to see more before I become a buyer.
» If any NFL team should be granted permission to apply for some form of government stimulus assistance, the Chargers might be first in line. Malcom Floyd was carted off the field at practice yesterday. Some reports say it's serious while Floyd himself thinks he may have lucked out. All you can do is wait until the team announces an update, but the bottom line is the Bolts are facing the prospect of being without their top two wide receivers as they enter Week 1. On second thought, never mind government assistance - Philip Rivers may petition the United Nations for protection from a hostile NFL.
» Jags tight end Marcedes Lewis was less than thrilled with the effort level of Monday's practice, and he certainly wasn't shy while relaying the message to his teammates. His coaches loved it, but it's probably not a good sign when a player has to stand up and grab the attention of the staff this early in the year. It's pretty easy to imagine Lewis and the rest of the offense getting frustrated and mailing it in halfway through the year. Sans Maurice Jones-Drew, putting a Jaguar into your starting lineup is an enormous roll of the dice. Proceed with extreme caution.