View Full Version : Steelers battle injuries in specialty areas

10-29-2008, 10:07 AM
Steelers battle injuries in specialty areas
By Scott Brown
Wednesday, October 29, 2008

That injuries have piled up for the Steelers doesn't make them unlike many teams in the NFL.

Where the Steelers have been hit hard does set them apart.

Depending on how the Steelers' injury situation shakes out over the next couple of days, they could be down to their third punter and third holder this season. The Steelers will have a new long snapper for Monday night's game against the Redskins, as the team signed Jared Retkofsky Tuesday to replace Greg Warren, who is out for the season with a knee injury.

The team also signed punter Ricky Schmitt to the practice squad Tuesday and will promote him to the active roster if Mitch Berger, who is nursing a strained hamstring, is unable to play Monday night.

The rash of injuries to Steelers specialists has been almost freakish because those players are the least susceptible to getting hurt. And it is enough to make one wonder if somebody has been shattering mirrors at the team's South Side practice facility.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has, at least, kept his sense of humor about it.

While discussing contingency plans that the Steelers have at positions such as punter, long snapper and holder at his weekly news conference, Tomlin stopped himself.

"We're talking a lot about emergency plans," Tomlin said. "If I go down (assistant head coach), John Mitchell is the guy."

The Steelers were forced to use an emergency plan last Sunday in a 21-14 loss to the Giants. The results were not favorable, though somewhat predictable.

With Warren out, Pro Bowl linebacker James Harrison had to snap when the Steelers punted from deep in their own territory in the fourth quarter. Harrison's snap sailed over the head of Berger, and the ball rolled out of the back of the end zone for a game-tying safety. After the free kick, the Giants marched 53 yards for the game-winning touchdown.

Harrison has been the team's emergency long snapper since Tomlin became coach in 2007. Tomlin said Harrison regularly practices snapping.

"In practice and at training camp is one thing," Tomlin said. "Inside the stadium and in the fourth quarter of a football game versus the defending world champion is another is another thing. I appreciate him. If I had to do it all over again, I'd do the same (thing)."

Retkofsky, who spent parts of the last two training camps with the Steelers, will allow Harrison to focus on what he does best: rushing the quarterback.

The 5-2 Steelers, however, may need to go with alternate plans at punter and holder against the 6-2 Redskins.

Berger, whom the Steelers signed after punter Daniel Sepulveda tore the ACL in his right knee during training camp, also holds for kicker Jeff Reed. Charlie Batch, the regular holder, is on injured reserve, and if Berger doesn't play against Monday night, wide receiver Hines Ward will be pressed into holding duties.

If Berger does play against the Redskins but gets hurt during the game, Reed would take over for the 14th-year veteran at punter.

When asked if he has ever seen this many injuries among specialists as a coach, Tomlin chuckled.

"Every day I walk through this door, I expect the unexpected," Tomlin said. "It's one of the exciting things about this job at this level in this league. If you don't like it, you've got a problem. I embrace it."

10-29-2008, 11:01 AM
Crazy to think an injuryt at the LS would help cost us a game, def, a tough injury to overcome.