The Pittsburgh Post Gazette reported this afternoon the Steelers starting defensive end Aaron Smith would be out with a potentially “serious” shoulder injury. Later in the day ESPN.com’s John Clatyon reported that Smith has a partially torn rotator cuff, and was debating surgery. On the Post Gazette Plus Site Ed Bouchette confirmed that Smith’s injury was indeed serious and potentially season ending.
The ESPN article reports that surgery would end Smith’s season. Smith could decide to try to play through the injury, but in doing so he would open himself to a potentially career ending injury.
Implications for the Steelers
When the Steelers lost Aaron Smith late in the 2007 season, their defensive performance plummeted like a rock. Without Smith they were completely unable to stop the run or dominate the line of scrimmage.
Smith’s top two back ups, Travis Kirschke and Nick Eason are both in their 30’s and capable stand ins, but neither can off set the drop off. That is not surprising, as Smith is one of the best, if not the best 3-4 defensive ends in the NFL.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin threw cold water on hopes that first round draft pick Evander “Ziggy” Hood could replace Smith. When asked about Hood, Tomlin praised the rookie’s talent, but then went on to say, “But by no means is Ziggy Hood a potential replacement for Aaron Smith at this point.”
Given that neither Krischke nor Eason’s limitations, Steelers fans must hope that Hood can grow up fast. For the moment, Tomlin has confirmed that the Steelers attempt to bring Hood along by filling Smith's slot by committee.
They have no other choice, with no other defensive ends on their roster, and with 2007 4th round pick Ryan McBean, who was cut in training camp last year, is now starting for Denver.
Implications for Aaron Smith
Aaron Smith is 33 years old and this is his second major injury in two years. While surgery and rehab does offer realistic hope of some sort of return for Smith, one has to wonder if Smith “getting up there” in terms of his “football age.”
What Happens Next?
If Smith does have a torn rotator cuff, he’s likely lost for the year. Even if he did attempt to play, one wonders how effective he would be.
- Curtain’s Call: Smith has the surgery, the Steelers put him on IR, and attempt to resign Sunny Harris, whom they cut before opening day, from Carolina’s practice squad.