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Pittsburgh Steelers starting left guard Ramon Foster's right knee injury isn't as bad as initially feared.

 

Foster was injured Saturday and left the team's first padded practice of training camp on a golf cart. Head coach Mike Tomlin said Sunday that Foster had his knee evaluated and the injury won't require surgery.

Tomlin offered no additional details on the injury or a timetable on Foster's recovery Adidas Duncan Keith Jersey , but team president Art Rooney II said the Steelers are hopeful to have Foster back in time for the regular season.

Regardless, it appears as if the Steelers won't lose their starting left guard for an extended period of time.

"I never speculate," Tomlin said. "I'm always hopeful, (and) I was that. So, we got relatively good news."

The Steelers' offensive line depth took a hit in the spring when they lost former fourth-round pick Jerald Hawkins to a torn quadriceps.

It didn't look good for the Steelers when their most seasoned member of the offensive line went down on Saturday. Foster lay on the grass, holding his right knee after Landry Jones tossed an incomplete pass to Antonio Brown.

"It's always a tough moment when someone goes down, especially in practice," left tackle Alejandro Villanueva said.

Ben Roethlisberger was on one knee next to Foster, while injured linebacker Ryan Shazier and other teammates gathered.

"Ramon is a key guy and a key figure on this team," guard B.J. Finney said. "I think it did kind of jolt everybody, but it made everybody realize that you're only one play away from playing."

Foster, who enters his 10th season, has been a consistent force on the offensive line.

He has appeared in 130 games with 115 starts since 2009, most on the team during that span. Some players looked visibly shaken on the field as a steady stream of veterans, including the starting offensive line, checked in on Foster before he left practice on a cart.

"Everybody loves Ramon and everybody wants him back," Finney said. "But it's the mentality that the next guy's gotta come up and we've gotta keep things going."

That's where Finney steps in. Finney might not be a household name, but he has been effective with the Steelers.

Finney, who enters his third season, has appeared in 27 games with seven starts, including four last season. He started for Foster at left guard Oct. 15 against Kansas City, and helped Le'Veon Bell rush for 179 yards, tied for the 10th-most single-game rushing yards in team history.

"B.J.'s got experience, which is key in this league," right guard David DeCastro said. "He's played some big snaps for us."

In his first career start at left guard in 2016 Derrick Henry Jersey Big , Finney was part of an offensive line that helped Bell rush for 144 yards and Roethlisberger throw for 300 yards and five touchdowns. That same season, he started for Foster at Buffalo and helped Bell rush for a team-record 236 yards.

"I don't want the other guys to suffer from me coming in, so my mentality is to always make sure I'm not going to bring everybody down or hold anybody up," Finney said.

Finney landed a spot with the Steelers after signing as an undrafted rookie free agent. It was a similar story in college as Finney was a walk-on at Kansas State, and finished as one of just three players in school history to earn all-conference honors four straight years.

Finney has proven reliable in Pittsburgh at both guard spots and center.

"It's not a new thing for me, so I know that I can play at this level and I can do a good job filling in when I have to," Finney said.

Finney is going to have to fill in as the Steelers starting left guard, at least until Foster returns.

"It's really tough," DeCastro said of Foster's injury. "A guy that's been here that long, and part of the group that we have, it's difficult, but luckily it's not too bad and he'll be back."

NOTES: S Morgan Burnett missed his third practice with a hamstring injury. ... WR JuJu Smith-Schuster (undisclosed), OLB T.J. Watt (hamstring), TE Vance McDonald (foot), S Sean Davis (groin), and LB Olasunkanmi Adeniyi all left Sunday's practice early.

 

Artemi Panarin turned out to be everything the Columbus Blue Jackets were looking for when they traded for him last summer: A dead-eye sniper and deft puck distributor who can get game-breaking goals and make everyone around him better.

 

And, the Blue Jackets hope, a guy who can get them deeper into the playoffs.

So far, so good. Columbus heads home to Nationwide Arena after taking a 2-0 lead over Washington in their first-round series on Sunday night, a come-from-behind 5-4 overtime win in which Panarin contributed a pair of key assists.

That came three nights after Panarin won the series opener in overtime. With two assists already in regulation, he drove down the left side, slipped past Capitals defenseman Dimitry Orlov and snapped a shot over goalie Philipp Grubauer’s shoulder.

”There’s very few people who can make that shot,” Washington coach Barry Trotz said.

”He can make a play from nothing,” Orlov said. ”He’s so smooth.”

The Blue Jackets probably wouldn’t be playing in the postseason without the 26-year-old Russian they call the ”Bread Man.” He was a steady presence and consistent scorer through a bumpy season of slumps and injuries to other key players.

Panarin led Columbus with 27 goals and 55 assists, and his 82 points were the most in a single season in franchise history. His plus/minus of 23 and average of just over 20 minutes on the ice per game were career highs.

Panarin – sounds like Panera Bread Mark Walton Color Rush Jersey , hence the hockey nickname of ”Bread Man” or just ”Bread” – has embraced being a featured star after playing in the large shadow of Patrick Kane in Chicago in his first two years in the league.

”In Chicago, I played with Kane and got a lot of assists from him,” Panarin said. ”But I always wanted something more, to put more of the game on myself and be more accountable for the result. Here, I got that, what I wanted.”

Panarin, who won the Calder Trophy as the top rookie in the NHL in 2015-16, was acquired from the Black Hawks last June along with forward Tyler Motte for forward Brandon Saad and goalie Anton Forsberg. Saad was a reliable player for Columbus for two seasons.

”Bread is a different type player because he can make a special play to win a game,” Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said. ”I just think for you to get through and find your way and try to be a better playoff team, you have to have some players that are dynamic. You’re not coaching it, they just see something, they seize a moment and they win you a game. Or they make a huge play to get you back in the game in another way.”

With the Blue Jackets on a power play and down 3-2 in the second period on Sunday, Panarin dribbled the puck and patiently waited for a lane to open up before delivering a pinpoint circle-to-circle pass to Cam Atkinson , who scored the tying goal.

Panarin’s line mates, veteran winger Atkinson and 19-year-old rookie center Pierre-Luc Dubois, have benefited from his skills. Atkinson – who had two goals on Sunday – has come on strong after missing time with injuries, finishing the regular season with 14 goals and 14 assists in February and March. Dubois had 20 goals and 28 assists in the regular season, making him the most productive rookie in Blue Jackets history.

Panarin makes $6 million a year on a contract that runs through next season. He’ll be due a sizeable salary bump if the Blue Jackets decide to keep him around after that.

So far, he’s been an ideal fit.

”When they first traded me, of course for a couple days, I worried,” he said. ”But then I calmed down and understood that this is all good for me. I understood that here I would progress as a player first and foremost. What’s most important to me isn’t money, but the whole game.”

Associated Press Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno in Washington contributed to this report.

 

Posted in Default Category on October 12 at 03:26 AM

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