Welcome back to the post in which I try to either calm your grave fears, or contribute to the crushing of all your hopes. During the season, we’ll do this injury roundup/analysis/tear factory once a week, doing damage control on a Monday afternoon. For now, it’ll be a little more sporadic.
Today we have two stops on the hurt train. One of which is serious, and one is maybe less so.
Impact: Miller tore pretty much everything in his leg at the end of last season, ripping apart his ACL, MCL, and PCL, and although he’s making fine progress and he’s been running around practice fields like a crazy man during individual drills, he still hasn’t participated in any team sessions yet during the Steelers training camp. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review said that won’t happen for a few more weeks, which throws more logs on the speculation that Miller will start the season on the physically unable to perform list, and therefore be out until Week 7.
This isn’t shocking stuff for anyone, or at least it shouldn’t be. Yet still, Miller is being drafted in some leagues, enough so that he has an ADP of 150.7 at Fantasy Football Calculator. Why even a late-round pick is being spent on an injured player at a position with little separation beyond the top tier will remain a mystery until it stops, which should be soon.
Next man (men?) up: Miller’s likely absence means that another intermediate target will be sought by Ben Roethlisberger, which is why you need to remember the name of one Markus Wheaton as a deep sleeper, though he may not emerge until later in the season after missing OTAs due to Oregon State’s late graduation. Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown will man the outside and be the fast, deep guys, but after Miller was targeted 101 times last year, there will be plenty of looks available underneath.
Initially, they could go to either Jerricho Cotchery or Plaxico Burress, but keep an eye on that Wheaton kid.
Impact: The seriousness and severity here is, well, we don’t know. Willis injured his right hand in practice Wednesday, a part of his body that’s pretty important for a linebacker, and one that’s become quite familiar with being broken. He’s broken the same hand twice in his career, playing with a protective cast on his hand in 2007 without missing any time, and then he was a true maniac while playing two games with a second break in 2010 before sitting out meaningless late-season games after the 49ers were eliminated from playoff contention.
So there’s very real hope that Willis won’t miss any time at all beyond his sideline towel waving duties during preseason games, which means you folk who own running backs looking to avoid the ritual of 49ers pounding early in the season (most notably, Marshawn Lynch in Week 2) will be disappointed. Even with fellow Pro Bowler Navarro Bowman still being beastly, any brief absence from Willis provides at least some fantasy promise. He’s scheduled to have X-rays later this afternoon.
Next man (men?) up: Should Willis miss any time, either Michael Wilhoite or Dan Skuta would slide in, and they had a combined total of 33 tackles last year.