The Pittsburgh Steelers have struggled their way to a 2-2 record after four weeks of the NFL season, and things won't get easier going forward after suffering a number of key injuries in Sunday's 17-10 loss to the Houston Texans. Among the walking wounded for the Steelers include QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB Rashard Mendenhall, LB James Harrison, and DE Aaron Smith, all of whom were key contributors to last year's AFC championship squad. Roethlisberger's injured left foot highlights the injury report for Week 4.
Here are the key injuries from the week so far, and their potential impact:
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers (foot)
Roethlisberger, who was sacked five times and endured constant pressure in the Steelers' 17-10 loss to Houston, suffered a left foot injury in the fourth quarter and left the stadium in a walking boot and using crutches. The Pittsburgh QB underwent an MRI on Monday morning which revealed a sprain in the foot, but not fractures. There is little known about the severity yet, or how much time he'll miss, if any. It bears noting that last season Roethlisberger played from December through the Super Bowl with an injured right foot.
The hits keep coming for the 0-4 Dolphins, who lost starting QB Henne on the second series of their loss to San Diego to a left shoulder injury. Henne, who hurt the shoulder after being hit by DT Shaun Phillips while running the football, left the game for evaluation and did not return to action. Since the injury occurred to Henne's non-throwing shoulder, in a best-case scenario he could return to action after the Dolphins' Week 5 bye. Matt Moore, who subbed at QB on Sunday, would take the snaps under center if Henne is unable to go Week 6 at the New York Jets.
Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh Steelers (hamstring)
Mendenhall pulled his right hamstring in the third quarter against Houston and was replaced in the lineup by RBs Isaac Redman and Mewelde Moore. Although the extent of the injury is uncertain at this point, muscle strains can take anywhere from days to weeks for a full recovery and are prone to aggravation if not rehabbed appropriately. Watch Mendenhall's practice status closely this week for an indication of whether he will be able to take the field in Week 5 against Tennessee.
Ben Tate, Houston Texans (groin)
While Arian Foster made a triumphant return to full-time duty as the Texans' RB, Tate, who filled in admirably the first three weeks, left Houston's win over the Steelers with a strained groin. Tate suffered the injury on a running play in the first quarter and limped off the field in considerable pain. Injuries to the groin, much like the hamstring, can easily be re-aggravated even after a period of recovery, and with Foster back to full speed, this may be another reason the Texans may limit his playing time going forward.
Andre Johnson, Houston Texans (hamstring)
Johnson injured his right hamstring in the second quarter of the Texans' 17-10 win over Pittsburgh and did not return to the field. The Texans' All-Pro receiver suffered the injury after a 13-yard reception, pulling up before the play had ended and clutching the back of his right thigh as he lay on the ground writhing in pain. The team will await the result of Johnson's MRI before discussing the extent of the injury, and until then Texans fans and fantasy owners alike are surely holding their collective breaths and hoping for the best.
Mike Williams, Seattle Seahawks (concussion)
Williams suffered a concussion while throwing a block on RB Marshawn Lynch's 11-yard touchdown run in the third quarter of Seattle's 30-28 loss to Atlanta. The collision initially appeared worse than it turned out, with Williams lying on the field while being attended to by trainers. The Seahawks WR, however, was responsive and alert, and may be able to play in Week 5 against the Giants pending clearance from the Seattle medical staff.
James Harrison, Pittsburgh Steelers (eye)
Harrison briefly left the Steelers' loss to Houston in the second quarter after suffering a right eye injury after a collision with Texans' OT Duane Brown. Head Coach Mike Tomlin told the press that Harrison, whose eye was struck by a helmet pad that came loose during the hit, was complaining of double vision while being evaluated on the sideline. Harrison's return to the game was certainly good news, and based on reports after the game there is no concern on the Steelers' part that there will be any lasting effects of the injury.
Mayo, a linchpin of the New England defense, injured his left knee in the second quarter of the Patriots' win over Oakland after shedding a block from Raiders OG Stefan Wisnewski. Although Mayo did not appear to suffer a direct hit to the knee, he hobbled noticeably while finishing the play and went down to the ground in pain. Preliminary reports indicate that Mayo injured his medial collateral ligament (MCL), which spans the inside of the knee. The prognosis for recovery from an MCL injury, which is not considered as severe as an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury, ranges from weeks to months depending on the grade and symptoms. Further testing, including an MRI, will determine the extent of Mayo's absence from the Patriots lineup.
Cole, one of the bright spots on an Eagles' defense that has underperformed so far this season, suffered a calf strain in the fourth quarter of Philadelphia's collapse to the 49ers and was carted off the field. The Eagles' DE was on crutches after the game and he's likely to miss Week 5 against Buffalo, at least. With ends Juqua Parker and Darryl Tapp already sidelined, this would be a devastating loss for Philadelphia's already thin defensive front.
Aaron Smith, Pittsburgh Steelers (foot)
The Steelers' DE was carted off the field after suffering what is preliminarily being called a sprained foot during Pittsburgh's loss to Houston. Smith will likely require an MRI to determine the extent of the injury, which would range from mild soft tissue trauma to a significant ligamentous injury or bone fracture. The Steelers will rely on DT Ziggy Hood to help on the interior line if Smith is unable to go against Tennessee in Week 5.