Eric Steinbach and The Domino Effect at Left Guard

Injuries are a killer for Cleveland sports teams right now. When it comes to the Indians, arguably the team's best offensive players, like Grady Sizemore, Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis, Shin-Soo Choo, and Travis Hafner have missed significant playing time.

When it comes to the Browns, we're seeing a trend that isn't very welcoming to fans. Sure, we haven't lost any critical players such as Joe Haden, Joe Thomas, Colt McCoy, or Peyton Hillis, but the long list of "small" injuries have prevented a lot of players from practicing or even seeing action in the preseason. The latest situation involves the left guard position. As we pointed out Friday night, reports surfaced that Eric Steinbach's season could be in jeopardy due to a back injury.

Steinbach's injury is really just another part of a domino effect that has taken place at the guard position since the lockout ended. First, the team decided not to re-sign veteran offensive lineman Floyd Womack, instead giving Shawn Lauvao the starting right guard role. Even if giving Lauvao the starting role was the right move, Womack still could have been retained as a backup guard and tackle.

Instead, the Browns opted to re-sign offensive guard Billy Yates. At the time, it seemed like a good move given the fact that Yates played well a year ago. Unfortunately, Yates mysteriously "retired" a few days into camp. I wonder if there is any chance that Yates would come back if he were told he would start at left guard? I doubt it.

Yates' retirement thrust fifth-round draft pick Jason Pinkston into the backup left guard role, which came as a surprise to me considering I thought he'd be working exclusively on the right side of the line, particularly at right tackle. With offensive lineman John Greco on the roster too, formerly of the Rams, it seemed like he'd be a more likely candidate to fill in after Yates' departure.

Then, when Steinbach went down, the coaching staff teased playing Greco there for one series against the Detroit Lions in the second preseason game. Since then, it's been all Pinkston, all the time. The fact is that we're hurting depth-wise at the tackle position right now. We went from having...

-Eric Steinbach (long-time veteran starter)
-Shawn Lauvao (high draft pick from last year)
-Billy Yates (long-time veteran backup)
-John Greco (younger backup)

...to now having...

-Jason Pinkston (rookie fourth-rounder)
-Shawn Lauvao (high draft pick from last year)
-John Greco (younger backup)
-Pat Murray (I'm grasping here folks)

It's not that I'm overly concerned about the guard position. I think Lauvao has played very well this camp and preseason, and I'm happy to see Pinkston getting the experience in. No one can tell me that Steinbach isn't the better option though right now, and he'll be missed in the starting lineup. I hope the news comes back positive on him and that he's able to play this season, but the early reports from around the NFL don't seem too optimistic.

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