If Hampton's Out, Steelers Are Scuffling

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Before the season there were two big concerns for most Steelers fans: could the offensive line keep Ben Roethlisberger alive and would the team's lack of depth on the defensive line come back to haunt it?

Well, we're three weeks into the season and Roethlisberger has had knee, shoulder and hand injuries thanks to 12 sacks and there's a pretty good chance the Steelers will take the field on Sunday with two of the three starting defensive linemen in street clothes.

There was no update on Monday, but when Casey Hampton limped off the field with a groin injury on Sunday, it led the coaching staff to speculate that he'll miss at least a few weeks. Brett Keisel is already out for a month or more with a calf injury which means Aaron Smith is all of a sudden the only healthy defensive line starter.

The Steelers defense seemed to survive the injuries pretty well against the Eagles, but the big concern now is whether the backups will wear out with increased playing time. Chris Hoke is a solid backup to Hampton, but he's also the only healthy nose tackle left on the roster. The Steelers like to have a full second unit of defensive linemen to come in and give the starters a breather, but unless they make a roster move, they'll only have two backups for Sunday's game. Making it worse ,Travis Kirschke usually fills the role of an emergency backup to Hoke, but he's also starting in place of Keisel. The Steelers can either make Kirschke a full-time nose tackle now and let Orpheus Roye start at the other defensive end spot while Nick Eason becomes the primary backup at both defensive end spots, or they can simply mix-and-match defensive linemen throughout the game, but neither is an ideal option.

We should find out today a rough estimate of how long Hampton will be out. Hopefully it doesn't lead to the same kind of defensive destruction that occurred last year when Smith was lost for the year late in the season.

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