Help, Health Wanted Along The Offensive Line

By Matthew Marczi

Ever since the inexplicable scene two weeks ago in which the newly-acquired tackle Levi Brown injured himself during pre-game warmups, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has gone against his own grain and dressed eight offensive linemen on game day.

Did the shock of having just Guy Whimper as a reserve lineman frighten Tomlin into rethinking his strategy? Or was there a more pragmatic explanation, a simple precaution, should some of the injured starters—Marcus Gilbert, more immediately, but also Ramon Foster—be unable to finish the game?

Regardless of the reason, there is a very real likelihood that the Steelers will not even have the ability to dress eight linemen for their next game, depending on the severity of the injuries suffered by Foster, Whimper, and David DeCastro on Sunday against the Oakland Raiders.

Assuming none of the three will play next week—which, mind you, is neither a prediction nor legitimate speculation—the Steelers would likely present a starting lineup consisting of, from left to right, Mike Adams, Kelvin Beachum, Fernando Velasco, Cody Wallace, and Gilbert. That is the lineup that was forced to play most of the second half against the Raiders, with no linemen left in reserve.

The Steelers, of course, have tackle Joe Long and guard Chris Hubbard on the practice squad. The latter spent virtually all of the offseason running with the second-team, while the former received significant playing time in the last two preseason games at both tackle positions.

Clearly, however, neither were deemed to be upgrades over Whimper or John Malecki, both of whom made the final 53-man roster before the latter was released in order to sign Wallace. If Whimper and DeCastro cannot play, however, we should see the Steelers make some roster moves toward the end of the week.

For example, the front office could decide to continue to play musical chairs with cornerback Isaiah Green and linebacker Kion Wilson. Green originally made the final roster before being cut to sign cornerback Antwon Blake. He was then put on the practice squad only to be promoted two weeks later. After another two weeks, he was released again after the trade for Brown, only to again complete the cycle from practice squad to active roster.

Wilson likewise also made the final 53-man roster, but was released a few weeks ago to bring back Stevenson Sylvester. The Steelers released Alan Baxter from the practice squad in order to place him there, but last week, he was promoted back to the active roster after the team released Isaac Redman.

Will their game of musical chairs continue? If at least two of the injured linemen are deemed unable to play this week, it is a virtual certainty that a roster move would be made, and they are prime candidates.

Also a target is tight end Richard Gordon, who was signed two weeks ago and has been sidelined with a toe injury for virtually his entire tenure with the team. Dare I toss out the name of Curtis Brown, the third-year former third-round cornerback whose inability to play defense and recent poor special teams performances have seen him riding the bench for the past two weeks?

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • steeltown

    If none of the aforementioned OL starters can come back this week, then I would literally just swap out Green and Wilson for Long and Hubbard purely for depth reasons

  • Shea Fahr

    Either that or sign Malecki back and release Gordon.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Although he’s been out of the system for a bit and I don’t think it would actually happen, this may actually be the best move, because in this scenario, both of your backup centers would be forced to start, and Hubbard has not played the position. At least then should Velasco go down you wouldn’t have to jumble the line at multiple positions.

  • T R

    Damn seem we would heard about a signing first thing monday morning , whats the hold up.. we def need sometthing bad…

  • Chad H

    Really doesn’t matter what they do at this point. Next to zero cash left. Both sides of the ball lacks any motivation.
    The hits will keep coming and Ben will be injured very soon.
    We will start next year with the same B.S. and not hold anyone within the organization accountable.
    Injuries are not anyone’s fault but the way the players play shows lack of preparation and discipline.

  • steeltown

    Gheez man… could you be alittle more glum?

    This year may not be going great and may soon be all but over, but im in no way throwing the towel in for next season as well.

  • steeltown

    Would have no problem with that

  • T R

    All i know if untill they get this OL situated you should put take Ben and Leveon Bell out and put in their backups.. Since they have practed with the 2nd and 3rd string teams anyway..So ben and Leveon wont get killed …

  • Chad H

    I don’t think anyone threw in the towel after last season. At least I didn’t. Until there are some sort of changes it will continue to be doom and gloom. I look forward to next season and can’t wait to erase the memories of this season if we find a coaching staff that will right this ship.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    Would could drop Mesko being whether we had a punter or not we would get the same results and bring back Malecki, Curtis Brown can only play special teams which he hasn’t been special on and drop him to bring up Hubbard and then we hope and pray for someone on the OL to be healthy enough to make the trip to so we have 8 healthy OL. Problem solved. 🙂

  • r4kolb

    In defense of Chad. steeltown can you tell me what you have seen this year that makes you think they can yurn it around next year? Ike, Troy, Clark, Keisel, all will be 1 year older and 1 step slower. Jarvis needs to learn how to not over pursue and contain. Allen doesn’t like to hit. Do you think LeBeau is going to change his philosophy and play his corners less then 10 yards off the opposing receivers? There are no leaders on the D. I’ve said it before, I’m not sure if it’s just the way of the new NFL but this D has zero nastiness anymore. The O? After the last 3 or 4 years can we ever expect the o line to be healthy and play as a unit? Is Haley back next year? Awesome, more wide receiver screens for 3 yard losses because the opposing D reads them as quickly as I do. Red Zone = field goal. Then of course there is the Tomlin factor. You know bad clock management, use of challenges, use of timeouts, letting 10 seconds run off the clock before you realize you should call a timeout. Knowing you’re usually playing from behind and deferring and putting that God awful D on the field that made Cassel look like a hall of famer, and can’t get off the field on 3rd and 5 because they just gave up a quick slant for 15 yards due to playing 10 yards off the receiver for the 10th time. Having your team so prepared that whenever you play a team under .500 you make them look like perennial playoff caliber teams. I could go on and on but I think you’d have to agree these are all valid points as to why this may be a long and painful process and it sure isn’t going to happen overnight.

  • Shea Fahr


  • Dr. Doom

    How many times since he has been the head coach have they been consistently behind, I will wait

  • r4kolb

    Doom you are the biggest Tomlin apologist there is. Your man love for him is apparent. Go to your room and light your candles around the life size Tomlin cut out you have next to your bed and bow down to his greatness. I’m not sure what season you are watching.

  • Dr. Doom

    If i took the time to explain why the pea in your head would explode

  • r4kolb

    Wow…great comeback. Now if you’ll excuse me I need to go drop a Tomlin in the toilet.

  • cencalsteeler

    It has gotten so bad, that I was really bummed out when Whimper got hurt. Think about that!

  • steeltown


  • Dude what was he doing, a karate kid impersonation. Well I can’t block him so I am going to kick him. Yah!

  • steeltown

    Im am not saying we don’t have problems, but the Defense has played well over the years, you cannot deny that they have won us significantly more games than lost. We have very young guys this season and even some of the 2-3yr guys are starting for the first time. Another year under the belts of guys like Heyward, McLendon, Shamarko, Vince, Jarvis, C.Allen and young potential in N.Williams, Arnfelt, Garvin, Green, etc… add another good draft and theres lots to be excited about

    The Offense is another story, and namely the OLine, I think we have a strong interior with DeCastro, Pouncey, Velasco, Foster, Beachum, Embernate etc what we need of course are Tackles. We need another stud TE to learn and play with Miller and we need another stud WR to play with A.Brown and Wheaton preferably a BIG one.

    Maybe a change in Offense Coord is needed, maybe, because Im not sure it best suits Bens abilities, but a lot of the other coaches (Bicknell, Mann, D.Smith) are first year guys in our organization

  • r4kolb

    Agreed w the D playing well over the years, however we can’t live in the past. This year they look very average. As far as the O I also agree the line has potential if, and that’s a big if, they can stay healthy. Just think a change may be needed w Haley, however, that then puts the O behind due to having to learn another offense. Ben is getting older and due to the beating he’s taken over the years I’m not sure how much longer he will be there. Heath is getting older, Pouncey will most likely leave via free agency and someone willing to overpay him. Embernate? I watched him on youtube and he looked like a beast in college. Then again so did Mike Adams, not? I just think it will be a rebuilding process the next 3 years.

  • Chad H

    I agree there is potential with some of these players. I don’t have faith in this coaching staff to get the max motivation out of any of them. I never jumped on the Tomlin bandwagon even with winning seasons and SBs. There was something about him. Can he coach through adversity? I say no. Look at BA last year with the Colts and a rookie QB. Now limited success with AZ with a team on paper that is worse than the Steelers. No QB no RB and a D that isn’t better. So what gives? Heck at least they get TDs and can put 30 points on the score board against shitty teams.

  • steeltown

    We are definitely in that transition period, we are shifting from the 2000’s SB Team to the present day, thankfully we still have Troy, Keisel and Ike Taylor to make the transition less harsh

  • Chad H

    Dr. Dork are u an actual arrogant Dr? Or just an arrogant east coast dip shit?

  • rizzo29

    Something drastically has to change with this team their going on two seasons now and the same crap keep coming up,why will next year be any different

  • SteelerFanInMD

    These are desparate times for the Steelers, so I’m going to revive the call to bring back Max Starks. He saved the season for them in 2011. Perhaps he can do that again. Can he be worse than Long and Hubbard? And how about bringing back Trai Essex if he has kept himself in shape? He was a multi-position player when he was with the Steelers.

  • rizzo29

    I think its actually Tomlin he posts himself as doom

  • JohnnyV1

    You just hush yourself on Curtis Brown! He’s irreplaceable! I think Big Ben may be feeling a right shoulder injury coming on all of a sudden.

  • Max looked putrid in the pre season, Trai Essex really? Its that bad.

  • r4kolb

    At least the name would fit!!!

  • steeltown

    That’s a stretch.. it was really only the last 1/3 of the 2012 up until that point when Ben was seriously injured we were 6-3 upon his return things never really got going.. and now the first half of 2013 has been more of the same so in reality its really been about one full season worth of games

  • treeher

    We were all hoping for a one year rebuild. Obviously, ain’t gonna happen. We’re living in a transition period that will take years. Longer, if we don’t make some coaching changes.

  • Kris Gusto Williams

    Our QB holds the ball too long… Either receivers can’t get open, or he’s having trouble reading defenses