Revenge Of The Busts

By Michael K. Reynolds

During this resurgence of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who now have won five of their last seven games, much of the credit can be placed squarely on the shoulders of an unlikely group of players. In fact, the theme of the 2013 season may aptly be called, “The Revenge of the Busts.”

Start off with perennial punching bag, Jason Worilds, who since his switch to the left side of the defense has been channeling the Ghost of Steelers Linebackers Past.

Not too long ago, Worilds was considered to be just another in a long line of failed Steelers second round draft picks, joining the likes of Limas SweedRicardo Colclough and Alonzo Jackson. Now his agent is probably already busy planning out travel plans for the upcoming opening day of free agency.

Perhaps the biggest transformation is Cameron Heyward, who went from being the first rounder who couldn’t get on the field to being the future foundation of the defensive line. All in the course of a few games.

Even the guy he replaced, Ziggy Hood, is now making a strong impact following his reinstatement to the starting line with the injury of Brett Keisel. And with the great bearded one suffering from plantar fasciitis, an affliction that most likely will linger for the rest of the season, Ziggy will have a big say in how the Steelers finish out their season.

Another second-round draft pick who is rapidly improving his standing is Marcus Gilbert who has settled in as more than solid at right tackle. Even Mike Adams, everybody’s goat at the beginning of the season, is making a significant contribution to the team as a blocking tight end.

And although he wouldn’t technically qualify as a bust, cornerback William Gay, the former poster boy of fan abuse, has turned the boos to cheers with one of his best seasons.

Then you have the parade of “no-names” making huge contributions like Fernando VelascoRamon FosterAl WoodsWill Allen and Kelvin Beachum.

Will any of these players make the Hall of Fame? Become All-Pro? Pro-Bowlers?

Probably not. But the fact they have weathered the storm and persevered is a testimony to their character.

Their performance as well is a credit to the coaches, whose commitment to the development of these players is paying off in a big way.

But the biggest sigh of relief is no doubt coming from General Manager Kevin Colbert. The Revenge of the Busts is sweet music to his ears.

Longtime Pittsburgh Steelers fanatic and author of the acclaimed Heirs of Ireland series. MichaelKReynolds.com
  • steeltown

    Much needed article… these guys have helped this Team tremendously

  • HarryBackside

    What definition of the word ‘bust’ are you using? I don’t see how guys like Hood, Gilbert, and especially Heyward, can be considered busts. Busts don’t have as many starts under their belts as Hood and Gilbert. Maybe they didn’t meet expectations, but there’s a lot of room between that and being a bust. Heyward is in his third year, and his development is pretty much on schedule. Anyone who used the bust label to describe Heyward is a moron.

  • srdan

    Shhhh, don’t tell the rest of hte league!

  • srdan

    Busts by Steeler standards. Look at the people ahead of ziggy and camron for 1st round picks. It’s easy to draw conclusion from that.

    If your arguement is that they are not as big of busts as vernon gholdston or vinny curry, I agree. But at teh beggining of the season we were calling a spade a spade

  • JAMESH

    I can see why nobody has ever criticized or even questioned the inner workings of Colbert, Tomlin & Rooney, Inc.

  • srdan

    Oh, and Kudos to Tomlin: “The answers are in this lockeroom”

  • CrazyTerry

    Hood is backup caliber. OK backup. Your DL is in trouble if he is one of the starters. I gotta say I am pleasantly surprised that Worldis is turning out better games from the other side. Gay is also a nice surprise, though some of us did expect him to be OK, but we did not expect him to be this good.
    I dont think Heyward was seen as a bust. We just wanted the coaching staff to start using him more last year.

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    Easy now, guys. As much we should be giddly and excited with the winning streak and contributions from those players, it doesn’t hide the four most noticeable problems on our roster: wehave three right tackles, no left tackle. We have three LOLBs, no ROLB. We have no true #1 TE, Heath Miller despite the best game he had whole season; we can do much better. Lastly not the biggest need but its a crying aloud for help when Big Ben is our best punter on the team!

    Those players are doing their jobs: filling in for the injuried players, doesn’t take away the lacking starting-materials among some positions. Our team as overall have accustomed the currently strengths and weaknesses which help the chemistry and eliminating unncessary plays but when its done and said, we dug ourselves a big hole already so I’m optimistic about the potentials of this team but I’m cautious with FO and their decision-making going forward.

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    Lol go away, bandwagon fan. Worilds wasn’t a surprise; he’s always had been our second best pass-rusher on this team this season. Ziggy Hood never was a bad defensive end to being with: Steelers finally stopped using him how they wanted us to utilitize Aaron Smith and its working. Hood has been our best run-stuffer whole season long and PFF stats can back it up.

    Willie Gay is Townsend 2.0, honestly why is everybody so surprised with him?! Cardinals let him go due to the fact that Gay outplayed his contract, to avoid paying the salary bonus he got released. Seriously.

  • Dom

    Jarvis is an adequate ROLB in my opinion. And saying Heathi is not a true #1 TE is laughable really. he’s coming off a pretty damn bad injury with absolutely nobody behind him remember

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    True but those busts aren’t at their fault. They came and they played; they aren’t the “right” fit for our schemes, that’s on FO. I’m actually waiting until somebody finally say Jarvis Jones is a bust because he will be, by Steelers’ standards because not only he belongs on left side but also he’s a read and react LB who fits Wade Phillips’ 3-4 better, not ours.

    Today people use word “bust” loosen, there are wrong fits and truly busts. Btw Vinne Curry? He’s 2nd round and a major contributor for the Eagles lol. Should’ve said Aaron Maybin.

  • srdan

    lol on the punter.

    I think you are a bit pessimistic on some of your comments. No ROLB? You are judging a rookie LB. Heath is coming off a late season ending injury. He never was or will be a receiving TE. We are still not a year removed from a knee reconstruction. Not many teams have a LT. Only one team wtih a franchise QB have a dominant left tackle past their rooke contract. They are the two highest paid positions and it’s hard to build a team if you have those two. The only one that comes to mind is Denver.

  • johnhoien

    It is a very noticeable turn around for these players mentioned… people… especially in the media throw the word Bust out so quick.. not everyone gets on the field and is an immediate super star.

  • srdan

    Oops, aaron curry. Seahawks.

  • steeltown

    Yea I never considered Heyward a bust, I was always waiting for him to be named the starter. You cant judge a player when he’s not actually starting games and getting quality snaps (e.g. Worilds)

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    Yes and no. I’m not juding Jarvis just because he is a rookie; at Georgia it shows. His best games were when he dominated from coverage. ROLB on our system require a true pass-rushing who can take on a left tackle or double-teams. It is a common knowledge that most tight end line up on right side (left on defense) so when playing zone is is much easier to read and react because if TE stays, you attack. If TE doesn’t line up there or occupied by a fullback, you attack the fullback.

    I mean, hello? Why is it a surprise that LOLB on Steelers scheme have been dominating for seasons? Clark Haggans, Jason Gildon, and Carlo Emmons, players before them. Chad brown! Who dominated when playing LOLB. Move Woodley there (ROLB) and it might balance out the situation but I doubt the Steelers would do that, Jarvis Jones makes a better BUCK than anyone on the roster anyway.

    Heath Miller undeniably has been consistent, if not the most in NFL but do not forget the impact other good tight ends have on their respectful teams. Heath is- no, he was a good #1 but with his contract coming up and on wrong side of 30 its easier saying he is a #2 on several teams. We have other tight end on the team but of course, Haley doesn’t utilitizes Will Johnson right at all.

  • dkoy85

    My biggest problem is Felix Jones returning kicks. Put Sanders back there dammit! Jones will never make it from one end to the other(I hope I’m wrong) and every time Sanders is back there we have a legitimate chance at getting 6 from him- It’s time to round in to form and now that were putting points on the board on defense it’s time for special teams to do the same.

  • JohnnyV1

    I just hope they don’t go by the way of CB Keenan Lewis, have a great last season and move on. We need good young guys to build this team on.

    Sometimes the scenery from the bench provides motivation to give that extra effort when the next chance comes up.

    And I personally didn’t grade any of those current guys as busts. But definitely the former list of Rd 2’s you named. I won’t type their names again here, hope to forget them.

  • StrengthOfVictory

    Ever since college ball has turned increasingly into “the junior pros,” players are now labelled as busts if they don’t contribute immediately. I hate that. It’s unfair. Players are meant to be groomed and developed. Everyone wants the rookie who goes off…wowing fans and coaches all the way to a Pro Bowl selection. But most players need time. Troy needed time to develop. Ike needed time to develop. Harrison needed time to develop. And looking outside the Steelers’ organization, Aaron Rodgers sat and learned behind Favre for YEARS before he became the player he is today.

    Today’s NFL is so deeply in love with the “next big-sensation rookie,” ala RG3. How many unfair judgments have been levied his direction less than two seasons after the Redskins franchise was tossed onto his back? Without the time to properly develop a player, you’ll never see their full potential.

  • Josh

    I continue to shake my head and laugh at how reliable Will Allen is on the defense, considering that for years he stood on the sidelines as the emergency-only option at S.

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    Ah yes! Aaron Curry, good example. “The most safest, pro-ready player of draft” echoes against deaf ears.

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    Agree, I know the demand for left tackles are big or high, but I’m afraid that’s why we will draft a left tackle who is truly a right tackle. You don’t need a dominating left tackle, you only need a system left tackle who does well one on one, if facing against bigger pass-rusher use a TE or FB. Haley haven’t done that.

  • Bradley Campbell

    Wow- I agree completely on Jarvis- think he makes an incredible ILB. Not so sure about OLB but have not given up on him yet. Just do not see the physical explosion and gifts that it takes to play that position. Just never heard anyone say it before.
    Heath has been terrible this year – I love the cat but he is not 100%. Any other analysis is judging past performance.

  • srdan

    True. I think the closest we ever came to that was Brandon Albert, there was a lot of chatter about us taking him, but then KC drafted him top 10.

    I think the FO sticks with these tackles for another year. Gilbert is shaping up in to a darn good RT. I think his guard helps him a lot! It’s hard to judge Adams because he truly hasn’t had an offseason yet, and two different dline coaches. I like him and hope that he can shape up.

    I think they draft a T but late this year. The way I think theylook at it is Beachum and Gilbert are servicible. If Adams displaces Beachum, all the better.

  • treeher

    Some of these “busts” were playing behind Super Bowl winners earlier in their careers, so “bust” is sort of a harsh term to use for them.

  • Jollyrob68

    HE was never a bust. Players regardless of draft position have to wait their turn. Except Pouncey.

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    Can’t say worrilds is a bust he played great last year with only limited playing time and continues to be a problem for offenses this year but gay on the other hand surprised me that vacation in arizona and the lake did him good

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    I never actually liked Mike Adams but theortically he can be a good LG. Honestly if you are asking me; i’d say either sign Rodger Saffold and lose three of our starting defensive backs (no names needed, everybody know who) or stick with Kelvin Beachem, don’t draft a left tackle.

    Because honestly right now only left tackle I like in the draft is Cameron Erving and don’t think we have the luxury to do that. I actually suspect Steelers were flirting with Brandon Albert but not necessarily sold. Keep this in mind, Albert is overrated as a left tackle, he’d be easily an all-pro LG and with Andy Reid’s quick throwing system he had made Albert effecient, not for what we want on our O-line. Safford you ask me, why?

    He has better agile and longevity speed which means if he get beaten, he’ll have much better chance of making up compared to our tackles, I.E. Beachem but his size make him much favorable against bigger defensive ends than Beachem.

  • Alan Felicia

    I don’t think its harsh at all. Ziggy Hood was a 1st round pick in 2009, this is his 5th and he’s been average at best. Jason Worilds was a 2nd round pick in 2010, this is his 4th season, and he’s been below average until this season.
    Both players haven’t played up to par to where they were drafted.

  • treeher

    Maybe so, but I might have preferred the term “slow developing” or “out of position.” I think maybe they have not been the best fits where the coaches have played them. It will be interesting to see how they all align when Woodley gets back in the lineup.

  • Alan Felicia

    How many years do you want to wait for players b/c both Hood and Worilds have been with the team for 4-5 seasons. If you compare these two to other Steeler defensive players, a good amount have developed far quicker:
    Aaron Smith was a 4th rd pick in 1999 became a starter his 3rd season with 8 sacks
    Joey Porter a 3rd rd pick in 1999 was a full-time starter his 2nd year with 10.5 sacks (9 sacks in his 3rd season)
    Lamar Woodley a 2nd rd pick in 2007 became full-time starter his 2nd year and recorded 11.5 sacks (13.5 his 3rd)
    Casey Hampton a 1st rd pick in ’01 started as a rookie and Pro-Bowler his 2nd year
    Troy Polamalu was a 1st rounder in 2003 became a starter and an All-Pro his second year.
    We go on and list more players like Timmons, Taylor, Kendrel Bell, etc. but my point is Hood and Worilds were high round picks that have been average at best. Normally, high round picks are highly skilled players who are ready to play right away.

  • HiVul

    Will you stop with the “I saw all this coming, everyone else is a bandwagoner” BS. Worilds has absolutely been a surprise the last two games, even to the writers of this site. Most thought William Gay would be a decent nickel corner behind Cortez at the beginning of the year, I find it hard to believe anyone saw this kind of production happening.

  • Alan Felicia

    First off, I’m glad that Worilds is playing better and making contributions. However, lets call like it is, Worilds is clearly motivated b/c its a contract year.
    IMHO, Hood and Worilds are “bust” b/c both were high draft choices, been with the team for 4-5 season and have been average at best. I’m more encouraged with Heyward’s play b/c he’s been progressing every year and has become the Steelers best defensive lineman.

  • SteelersDepot

    Absolutely no way Adams will be a guard. NONE.

  • joed32

    Last year he only started 3 games and had 5 sacks on the year. When he filled in for Woodley he played well, he’s much better on the left than he is on the right. Woodley started 13 games last year and had 4 sacks.

  • Brendon Glad

    During the broadcast it was stated that Velasco has sentiment in the locker room that he is the team MVP. I’d echo that.
    I have been as negative towards Steelers OL play as any human being who cares for many years, even in 2008, a Lombardi year.
    But I feel like I call a spade a spade, and a diamond a diamond as best as my eyes will tell me.
    And that performance by the OL yesterday (stats aside) strictly from the eyeball-test, was as solid a performance as I can recall in recent memory.
    They were CRISP, SHARP, PENALTY-FREE, PRESSURE FREE, and PHYSICAL, almost from start to finish. I can’t recall any lapses of note.
    And even though it was “just Cleveland”…their defense isn’t what makes them weak.
    It was a game where I literally felt CALM about the OL. Didn’t feel like a huge sack or penalty was about a play away.
    GREAT JOB GUYS! Proud of you.
    And Velasco, you saved my season as a fan. No matter what happens from here on out, I thought my enjoyment of the 2013 season was in shambles. And you are a HUGE part of why it still has potential to be fun.

  • http://justjabari.wordpress.com/ Jabari Styles

    Agreed..Ben walked away with a clean jersey on Sunday. Can’t ask for more than that!

  • MC

    great article, i’ve become a bit of a serial poster about Hewyard and Worilds because from draft day i knew they had a lot of potential and i’ve had a few arguments (mostly on bleacher report haha) with people who were calling these two busts especially Heyward. Heyward was always primed to delivery this type of performance there were flashes of it in his rookie year even!!
    Worilds i always felt had a bad wrap with injuries and the fact that he had to switch sides coming out of VA tech but look at what he’s doing now…

    Which raises the question, what do we do when Woodley is back?
    I think you have to give Worilds another shot back over at ROLB in lieu of Jones and see what happens, hopefully he can create some pressure back over there as it would help immensely

  • Brendon Glad

    They looked like a UNIT, by God! Most encouraging sign I’ve seen this season.

  • Brendon Glad

    I’m not the only one who noted (during the summer) that Worilds seemed to play significantly better on the Left side. Many of y’all did as well.
    I’m not criticizing anyone, because the JH vs. LW situation made sense to do it the way it happened. But let’s just say I’m not surprised at the JW development at LOLB…vs his innocuous start at ROLB.
    Very unsure as to WHY, but sometimes it just “is what it is”. There’s now enough evidence to say he’s definitely a far better LOLB than he is a ROLB.
    The one thing we have zero evidence of, is what would happen if LW took some snaps on the Right side…
    Can’t recall that ever happening. I wonder if it’s a possibility once he returns.

  • Brendon Glad

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again….the intricacies of a 3-4 DE’s “grade” are over my head, no matter how smart I think I am.
    So I’ve always had extreme difficulty even “commenting” on whether one of our 3-4 DE’s is playing at a HOF level, horribly, and everything in between.
    I remember a game or 2 where Aaron Smith had, like, 2 tackles and an assist, and Dick Lebeau called it “one of the best defensive performances he’s seen.” That’s when I learned it was over my head, even though I always liked Aaron Smith a great deal.
    So I agree with you. I think anyone who calls Hood or Heyward a bust better be a lot smarter, and have access to a lot more film than most of us.

  • Brendon Glad

    Your point begs the question: What has Woodley failed at during practice at ROLB (if he ever took snaps there), to not be open to flip-flopping Woodley and Worilds?
    To me, I’d like to see it tried. Because the evidence is there that Worilds is Very Good/excellent at LOLB…while not so at ROLB. Yet no game evidence exists to say that Woodley is a lesser ROLB than he is a LOLB. Just a thought.

  • Brendon Glad

    I was very happy to see William Gay have a big game. I’ve always thought he was a better player than what criticism he receives.
    He’s way way closer to Deshea Townsend than he is to Ricardo Colkleigh. And sometimes I feel like the fans treat him more like the latter.
    Great game William Gay!!!

  • MC

    Im not sure if Wood has ever tried the ROLB spot. I’m assuming he played on the left side in college so they put him there and the rest is history. I think after two great games by worilds it might warrant trying wood at ROLB in practice and see how he goes.

    Things would be much more interesting if Woodley didn’t have so much money tied up with his contract and we could look at trade possibilities down the line, that being said, Jones is far from being a consistent stud in this D so Worilds is gonna be needed on that right side until Jones matures in his role anyway…

  • chris ward

    Good to see Heyward playing at a high level ever since he has been promoted over Ziggy at left end. Fans that thought he was a bust should of remembered that his rookie year was during the lockout and Heyward didn’t have that time with the coaches during the OTA’s. Heyward has really come along this year and will continue to only get better as the season goes. It takes awhile for a college kid to become accumulated to the pro game and especially in Lebeau’s defense.

  • CrazyTerry

    Maybe you are CrazyHeath. What a delusional windbag. Let’s get this straight. Worldis hasn’t proven he is still worthy of being taken above Sean Lee. All he has done is calm our fears that he is not a major disappointment. He still has the whole “cant play worth a damn from the right side”. Now , Woodley said he played everywhere in college and moving wouldn’t bother him. So I am pleased that at least Wordlis has found a side he liked and showed us that the success he got in limited snaps on the left side the last two years was no fluke.
    As far as Gay, some of us did think he would be fine. But did you expect him to be our best cover corner because right now he is in tighter coverage on the WRs than all of our secondary players? Gay wasn’t getting some major money from AZ. They obviously felt he wasn’t worth the little extra money he would get.

  • Arthur Branch

    I have never considered these guys to busts. Look at the linebackers Worlids has been behind. It turns out they have been trying to play him on the wrong side. Heyward had been behind Brett, Hood was behind Aaron how can they develop with little to no playing time. Also these guys were picked at the bottom of the first round. In my opinion a bust is a top 15 pick that doesn’t pan out.

  • ATL96STEELER

    Michael…I agree with Arthur here…I think you’re a little ahead of yourself using the term bust with these guys….especially in the same sentence as Limas Sweed. IMO…not every draft pick is destined to be a starter…in year 1 & 2 you should be on the field in some capacity even if it’s ST, by year 3 you should be a regular if you’re ever going to be one.

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    You mad bro? Look up the archive, I have said before, Jason Worilds is our second best pass-rusher. Worilds got 5 sacks last season in a limited PT. His pass-rushing is actually pretty decent, I have made a comparison between him and Chris Clemons. Don’t believe me? Look it up or hit the road.

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    Actually no, I never said Gay would be this good but yes, I knew he’d be reliable. Heck Hood is better than a back-up; its proven his production come from right side and I mean he produced. Left side of the defense have different kind of responsibilities so you can’t mix players up if they aren’t the right fit.

    My beef with you is that, you are stating the information where obviously, you only have seen from the games we have won. Benching Hood HAD absolutely nothing to do with him being sub-par. Its got a lot to do with Heyward being a better fit for LDE.

    If you have seen the games we lost, Hood actually played good, he’s our best run-stuffer on the roster.

  • RedCarpetDefense

    You had me at eyeball test…lol. Stats, PFF, etc. I like to rely on what my eyes tell me during the course of a game.

  • G33k N4sty

    This is what I was hoping would happen. Guys getting benched would get their wake-up calls. However much criticism you want to direct at Tomlin, you’ve got to give him credit for waking these guys up. And, I don’t even understand how guys like Velasco and Beachum who are cast-offs from other teams show up in Pittsburgh and play well enough to start!

  • http://www.michaelkreynolds.com/ Michael K. Reynolds

    My bad! Good point…

  • http://www.michaelkreynolds.com/ Michael K. Reynolds

    I was talking about the “general sentiment” about these players with somewhat of a tongue placed firmly in cheek. Personally, I don’t think a player is fully a bust until they leave the team while falling far short of hopes or expectations. These players have begun to prove that “it’s not over until it’s over”. But I think Alan Felicia does a great job above articulating the counterpoint. In this period of free agency, you can’t wait four or five years for them to produce. Just ask Keenan Lewis who skipped away from the Steelers while laughing on his way to the bank.

  • HiVul

    No one said that Worilds isn’t our second best pass rusher. The point is that Worilds and Gay have both been outperforming expectations based on previous results. Look at the article on this site about Worilds free agency value going up, that tells you he is playing better

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    If that was the case, you shouldn’t have made a target on my back, because as I have said, I’m not why people are surprised now when the fact that I not only did mentioned that he was better than the Steelers FO would give him credits for; his stats backed him uplast season. Most sacks on team as a back-up? Come on man.

    He is a strictly pass-rushing specialist, I hope we keep him, he’s Chris Clemons 2.0 and if we don’t we will have to draft one. Which mean, our pass-rushing issues come back again.