Every team in the National Football League has dealt with injuries this season — some more significant and tide-turning than others.
As evidenced by the Pittsburgh Steelers this Sunday, teams can survive when some of their marquee players are removed from action. Backup quarterback Landry Jones, who likely will be leading the black and yellow in the coming weeks, led the Steelers to victory after starter Ben Roethlisberger had been knocked out of the game … the Steelers’ first since Pro Bowl running back Le’Veon Bell was lost for the season to a torn MCL.
The Steelers, however, aren’t the most injured team in the NFL in 2015, although they could be by season’s end.
Man Games Lost is a website that attempts to both quantify and qualify the most injury-riddled franchises each season. It’s not enough for a team to lose a player — that happens to every franchise on a near-weekly basis. What’s more important is losing a player who substantially contributes in games.
Entering Week 9 of the NFL season, the site contended that the teams most beset by injuries this season have been the Steelers and the Cleveland Browns. Head coach Mike Pettine has certainly missed the services of Joe Haden (two games), Craig Robertson (two games), Tashaun Gipson (one game), but Cleveland’s physical woes pale in comparison to a certain team in Texas.
This season, the Dallas Cowboys have likely been the franchise dealt the hardest blow on the injury front. Head coach Jason Garrett has been without starting quarterback Tony Romo for six of the team’s eight games, and the 2-6 Cowboys have lost all of them since Romo broke his collarbone. Star wideout Dez Bryant was injured in the first game of the season and has played in just three. Before Joseph Randle was cut by the franchise, the team’s projected go-to tailback was unable to play against Seattle on account of injury.
But Romo’s injury is likely the most significant of any this season.
Dallas has watched its offense regress in terms of total yards, yards per play, passing yards and completion percentage in the six games without Romo. And while turnovers are down (1.3 compared to 2.5), Garrett’s outfit is having a tougher time finding the end zone (18.8 points per game compared to 23.5).
There have been other notable injuries that have plagued NFL teams: The Houston Texans lost Pro Bowl running back Arian Foster for the remainder of the season; San Diego no longer has wide receiver Keenan Allen, who was in the midst of a league-leading campaign; Baltimore will play the remainder of its schedule without veteran wide receiver Steve Smith Sr., who had nearly twice as many receptions and yards as the next closest man on the Ravens roster; and Kansas City has been playing without Jamal Charles, one of the NFL’s elite running backs, since he tore his ACL last month.
It’s objectively difficult to posit who has had it worse in a league where injuries are commonplace and turnover’s are inevitable. However, the Cowboys, who have won at least eight games every season the past four years, are plummeting in the standings — and quite a bit of the tumble is a result of the pivotal injuries they’ve faced this season.