While the Steelers were more or less dominant in their 34 - 16 preseason win over the Atlanta Falcons Saturday night, the
meaningless exhibition victory didn't come without a cost. Pittsburgh's training staff may have pulled a few hamstrings themselves, as numerous key players on both sides of the ball were sustained injuries and were rushed to the sideline -- or in one case, the hospital. Let's take a look at what some of these injuries could mean for impending roster cuts and for regular season action.
Along with William Gay, third-year cornerback Keenan Lewis started the contest, while veterans Ike Taylor and Bryant McFadden nursed minor injures. Lewis played extremely well in limited action against the nasty receiving duo of Roddy White and rookie Julio Jones, however, he came down hard on one leg while breaking up a potential touchdown pass to White, apparently sustaining a knee injury. Lewis writhed in pain but was able to limp off the field mostly under his own power. However, head coach Mike Tomlin did not sound particularly optimistic when asked about the injury during his halftime interview.
When you add this to the injuries to Taylor and McFadden, younger corners like second-year man Crezdon Butler -- who had an electric, 95-yard pick-six (video) after he jumped an out route on the first play of the fourth quarter -- camp sensation Donovan Warren, and rookies Curtis Brown and Cortez Allen could be pressed into action sooner than expected. Stay tuned.
All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey appeared to re-aggravate an old ankle injury after a first quarter play. Pittsburgh removed their young stalwart immediately, however, it didn't appear to be more than a minor tweak. I expect Pouncey to be among the many starters who will sit out during Pittsburgh's final preseason game in order to get healthy for the team's September 11th season opener, a crucial divisional showdown with the Baltimore Ravens.
Nose tackle Casey Hampton suffered a right elbow injury that caused him some obvious discomfort. Hampton kept flexing his hand as he approached the sideline, testing his manual mobility. While he was clearly in pain, I don't expect this injury to slow "Big Snack" down too much. He'll sit next Thursday in preseason action and be ready to go for the Ravens.
The injury to second-string quarterback Byron Leftwich was the evening's nastiest, and it presents the most obvious roster implications. During a third-down scramble, Leftwich fell forward near the sticks and landed awkwardly on his left arm, which remained limp at his side while he ambled to the sideline in what appeared to be excruciating pain. Reportedly, the Steelers sent him straight to the hospital -- unconventional protocol for most sports injuries -- so this looks like a serious, potentially season-ending injury to Leftwich's shoulder, elbow, or bones -- perhaps even a fracture.
If Leftwich's injury is as serious as it appeared, the competition for the third quarterback spot between old-timer Charlie Batch and the mobile Dennis Dixon will be a moot point, and both veterans will make the roster as backups to Ben Roethlisberger.