LATROBE – The Steelers kicked off their 50th summer at Saint Vincent College today, with all players checking into the dormitory that's to be their home for the next month. Shortly after their arrival, the first scheduled on-field activity was a conditioning test where the issue quickly became one that's been a part of football going all the way back to the days before this campus became a vacation destination for tens of thousands of Steelers fans.
That issue: injuries. And the Steelers finished Day 1 of Year 50 by placing five players on the physically unable to perform list. Those five were Bruce Gradkowski (right shoulder), Mike Adams (back), Senquez Golson (shoulder), Shawn Lemon (Achilles), and Maurkice Pouncey (foot).
"Bruce Gradkowski will start (on PUP) with a right shoulder injury. Really no update there," said Coach Mike Tomlin. "We will watch how he feels and perks up. Mike Adams had a back procedure on July 20, and he will be out approximately four weeks. Shawn Lemon has an Achilles strain. Maurkice Pouncey has a right foot sprain that happened in training, but it's very minor. Senquez Golson has a shoulder injury, and we will monitor it. No real update or anticipated lengths of time with these guys other than Mike Adams because he had a back procedure that requires about four weeks of rehabilitation before he's ready to go. But largely I am excited about the overall readiness of the group and excited about getting started."
Players on the physically unable to perform list are permitted only to rehabilitate their injuries until they are activated, and only then are they able to practice with the team. Tomlin may have been excited about the conditioning level of the players able to complete the conditioning test and unwilling to talk about those who couldn't participate, but five players opening camp on PUP is hardly a positive development.
Players arrive at Saint Vincent College for 2015 Steelers Training Camp.
Gradkowski was given time off during OTAs and minicamp because of his right shoulder, and whatever was bothering him hasn't cleared up in the six weeks since the offseason program concluded. It's not as though Gradkowski is in danger of losing his job as Ben Roethlisberger's backup as a result of missing this time at the start of camp, but having a healthy No. 2 quarterback for the start of the season is important.
"I'm not sure the extent of it. We are just exercising some precaution," said Tomlin about Gradkowski. "He's a veteran guy, and we are going to make sure that's in our rearview before we proceed. He has experienced some discomfort in training. We'll get a good look at it and take care of him, and when he's ready to go we'll go."
Adams had a procedure on his back on July 20, which Tomlin said will require four weeks of rehabilitation before he would be ready to get onto the practice field. Like Gradkowski, Adams isn't necessarily in danger of losing his roster spot, but as the veteran No. 3 tackle his health is more than a minor concern.
"It's something that he's been dealing with off and on," said Tomlin. "We got it evaluated and decided to put it behind us. He's been dealing with it off and on for the majority of the offseason."
The situation with Golson and Lemon is a bit different, because they arrived here having to show they belonged in the NFL.
Lemon, who has an Achilles strain, had a 13-sack season in the CFL and was signed on Jan. 20 with an eye toward juicing the Steelers' pass rush, but as this camp begins he is part of a fierce battle for a roster spot. He will be trying to unseat a group of outside linebackers that include No. 1 picks Jarvis Jones and Bud Dupree and veterans James Harrison and Arthur Moats. The Steelers ended last season with four outside linebackers on their 53-man roster.
Golson might not be in any immediate danger of getting cut because he was the team's No. 2 draft pick less than three months ago, but his chances of earning a role on the Steelers revamped defense likely lessen with every practice he's forced to miss.
"He's not good enough to go," said Tomlin. "I'll give you an update when I get it. I really haven't spent a lot of time focusing on the ones who aren't participating. I like spending my time focusing on the ones who are."
Of the five guys on PUP, Tomlin seemed to be the least concerned about Pouncey, who could end up being activated before the end of the first full week of this training camp.
STEELERS NOTES: When asked if he had any clarity from the NFL on the status of Le'Veon Bell's appeal of his suspension, Tomlin said, "I do not." … With Adams on PUP, it's now clear why the team released safety Jordan Dangerfield a couple of days ago and signed first-year tackle Kevin Palmer to take his spot on the 90-man roster.