What Can They Do?

By Matthew Marczi

Even though the Pittsburgh Steelers have finally come up on the positive end once again after soundly defeating the Buffalo Bills yesterday, the team still sits at 3-6, and no doubt many, including the professional sports writers around the country, can’t get the taste out of their mouths from some of the earlier losses.

Many, accordingly, have demanded change, even though the team has already made several changes, and realistically don’t have many more moves left to make. So for the demanding fan—or sports writer—here is a list of proposed changes, or rather experiments, that the Steelers could look into going forward this season.

Get a real Nose Tackle!

After giving up nearly 400 yards on the ground the past two games, many wanted to point the finger at first-year starting nose tackle Steve McLendon as the culprit, because he is not seen as a ‘true’ nose tackle, given that he is a few steaks short of Casey Hampton. Let’s consider that argument valid for this purpose. That would mean starting Hebron Fangupo at nose tackle—after all, McLendon is more of a true nose guard than Al Woods is.

So we take Fangupo from the inactive list to the starting lineup. Now, do you move McLendon over to right defensive end in the starting lineup, or send him to the bench behind Brett Keisel? Though McLendon would likely be an upgrade in the running game, Keisel has still been impactful against the pass, more so, I’m sure, than McLendon would be, even from the end.

Bench Ryan Clark!

In fairness to his detractors—myself included—this argument was more meaningul before yesterday’s game, in which he recorded the team’s lone turnover and just generally played far better than in past weeks. Shamarko Thomas injured his ankle in his past game, which meant Will Allen got his first playing time on defense of the year for the Steelers. He started several games next to Clark last season and played well. Could he do just as well replacing him instead?

Get Cortez Allen back in the lineup!

This is another argument that sounded better last week, as William Gay was exploited in the schemes the Steelers chose to run against the New England Patriots, and even threw in a missed tackle in the red zone. It was, by far, his worst game of the season. He rebounded quite well this week though, and was impactful against the run.

Allen also looked improved from last week, where he seemed lost on a few running plays and helped them lead to big gains. Allen is the more talented player and a better matchup physically, but Gay has more knowledge of the defense than just about everybody short of Dick LeBeau. I really wouldn’t take issue with this going either way.

Start Jerricho Cotchery!

Considering he has caught the last four touchdown passes Ben Roethlisberger has thrown, and has twice as many touchdowns as the next best receiver on the team, it certainly might be tempting to want to plug in Cotchery over Emmanuel Sanders. Although it’s not a terrible idea, I’m inclined to believe that Cotchery is better served in the role he now plays, which is the slot.

Roethlisberger has been targeting him so much because Cotchery is able to exploit key mismatches from the slot. He is also probably better served not playing every down to keep him fresh. Having him as the third option in three-receiver looks also gives the offense greater versatility, since he is an accomplished run-blocker as well, enabling you to run out of the 11 personnel with less suspicion.

What other realistic personnel changes would YOU make, given the current roster? Would you have Markus Wheaton starting? Jarvis Jones at inside linebacker? Jonathan Dwyer at tailback?

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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


    Someone else at Punter.

  • Paul

    The Bills are 3-7 and nothing can be gained by beating them Just one bad team beating another

  • Shannon Stephenson

    I mentioned that before too. Lets not get too happy about beating a bad team.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    Kapinos before he was hurt in the preseason two preseasons ago was looking really good. Not sure why we did not look at him. Maybe he is out of shape but I would think he would be better then any of the yahoo’s we have had playing for us this year. We waited way to long to try and make a change there IMO.

  • MP34

    I don’t see any value in putting Jarvis Jones at inside linebacker. It’s surprising that talk keeps coming up.

  • Bradys_Dad

    I watch the stats every week for other RBs and the one thing that never surprises me (or any one else for that matter) is the number of carries the better backs in the league get. I actually think we have 3 better than average backs on the squad (go ahead – pile on) but this RB by committee stuff is not effective in my eyes. Yes we have broken the 100 YD rushing barrier a few times but that was utilizing multiple backs. Look at the wins vs. losses of any team in comparison to a single back gaining over 100 YDS per game. When A back gains over 100 YDS within a game the winning percentage soars. I know the arguments about our OL and I know that many people aren’t sold on the trio of backs that we have but so far this year no one back has had 25+ touches in a game. Bell shows great potential but he gets yanked a whole lot in favor of another RB. Completely understood when it’s 3rd and short and you need a bulldozer style like Dwyer but didn’t we bring in Bell for his added dimension of being able to catch out of the backfield? Bell is an every-down RB in my opinion. I guess I’m just a bit perplexed with the shuffling of RBs and the rationale (or lack thereof) its’ effectiveness.


    This season is a only alive mathematically which gives hope in the locker room. So…we should expect a solid effort every week as fans.

    NT…that’s a no brainer…but he’s the best that LeBeau can put out there…somebody thought Ta’amu could play, and Fangupo can’t even get active.

    Imo PIT has better players for a 4-3 DEF now, but the elephant in the room is LeBeau. McLendon/Hood are better suited for DT, Woodley would have less coverage responsibility as a DE, and Heyward is the other DE…J. Jones doesn’t have the size to play OLB in this scheme…looks to be better as a 4-3 OLB where he’s taking on a TE or RB when he blitzes…has almost no shot vs a decent T.


    Not saying I agree..but not sure why it’s surprising…watching the games, I think its clear if a T is blocking him he’s out of that play as a pass rusher. I think @ 245 he probably is better suited in a 4-3 as an OLB.

  • MP34

    I don’t know, I just assume there is a lot to learn to play in this 3-4 defense, and some rookies take that in at different speeds. I also think guys like him had minimal responsibilities in college (re: just rush the passer, and make tackles in the field.) I’d just leave him at OLB, and see if he can flourish in year 2.

  • TheBlitz

    This team has lost meaningful games against bad teams this year alone. Titans, Vikings, Raiders to name a few. So beating a bad team could be a reason of joy. So I can see why some may be a little excited to finally see us beating a bad team

  • TheBlitz

    That’s actually a good point.

    In fact today we are all excited to see Cam Heyward play in beast mode. I’m not sure how he would have fared if he started his rookie year. In fact he was already labeled a bust by the fanbase because he couldn’t unseat Keisel

  • steeltown

    A win is a win… I will always be happy with a win, even during a losing season

  • steeltown

    Wow..a win is a win even during a bad season. As a fan, if you cant get enjoyment out of a win or if your Team winning a game doesn’t make you happy, then maybe you are not really a fan

  • steeltown

    I would say move McLendon to DE next year when Keisel is either gone or on a vet minimum deal..and hopefully by then you have either drafted a NT and/or figured out whether Fang is capable.

    I would continue to do what they have been with Wheaton and Jones, they’re rookies, get them some meaningful snaps and next season they’ll be better for it.

    Also, I wouldn’t make Dwyer the feature back, but I would sure offer him a modest extension to remain in his current role.

    I agree that Cotchery is good where he is, most of his success is because of the position he’s playing and the matchups he’s receiving as the #3 slot guy

    In the secondary, im fine with WillieG or C.Allen starting, hopefully Allen overtakes Willie at some point which would mean he’s improved and ready for the next step. Clark is Clark at this point, not sure Will Allen would be any better. Its clear we need CB and Safety in this next draft


    Yes, it was only Buffalo, but I thoroughly enjoyed watching that game yesterday and I feel better today than I did last Monday.

  • steeltown

    No doubt

  • Callentown

    I feel like I am a fan. I have been for almost 40 years. But I am not at all excited or have any extra hop in my step after beating this horrible team a week after the Steelers looked like the worst team in the NFL.

    If in any way it looked as if Pittsburgh would be competing next week or in some way this season, that would be different. But this fall from grace is pathetic and unacceptable. Just look at the Cheatriots who are also going thru some growing pains. They are not the laughing stock of the NFL. Instead they are in first place.

    Signed – It doesn’t have to be this way

  • Callentown

    I agree with everything you said with the exception that Jones, I believe, will be a better rushing OLB next season with some weight gain, muscle and this season as experience.

  • george

    The joy is in the fact that the Steelers actually beat a team they should have. Even with Ben’s usual slow 1st quarter start.


    I think the yr of experience will do him a ton of good, but I think Jones is playing at roughly 245 this season…maybe…I agree he can bulk up 10 lbs without any problem, if he gains much more than that I would be concerned about his quickness.


    No doubt, there is a leaning curve to play any position in LeBeau’s scheme…this year of experience should do wonders for Jones.

    I watched nearly every UGA game last yr so I do think he can be a force at this level, but he was being blocked by RBs and TEs a lot more than he is now.

    Yr 2…if they don’t have a legit NT I don’t foresee a huge improvement for the edge rushers.


    I’m not either…more than anything I’m looking at the effort on the field as a barometer of how these guys are responding to Tomlin…in that sense it was good.

  • Wayne Darby

    Move McLendon to end, get a good nose tackle in the offseason and for christ’s sake, put Jarvis Jones on the bench. He is way too small right now to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense.

  • Johnny Loose

    I don’t think Drew Butler was as bad a punter as he was made out to be. No relevance at all, but I really liked that his dad was the ’85 Bears kicker. Now that’s pedigree!!!


    I can’t see Brett returning…the big key imo is finding a NT…Fang not being able to get activated at all this year imo means he’s more than a season away from contributing.

    I haven’t lost confidence in Wheaton, but it’s clear to me that PIT has to get a legit #2 WR…I don’t see Sanders coming back…nor am I excited about that possibility.

  • They won, that’s it now on to next week.

  • patrick Mayfield

    Needs a year in the weight room to be ready to play on the edge. He could probably rush the passer better from the inside than Williams. I think we already see this look sometimes situationally though.

  • patrick Mayfield

    I think it’s just to keep the other backs current and to keep up their preparation. Tomlin seems to sub backs out a series at a time. I can see the logic so long at there’s not a dramatic drop-off.

    If you look at stats for the present season, Shady McCoy has the most attempts, averaging 19.3 carries per game. Bell is at 17 carries/game so he’s not off that pace by much. His yards/carry is second worst of the backs listed on ESPN incidentally. If we were more successful running the ball as a team I think we’d get that 100 yard guy in Bell.

  • Shea Fahr

    You just can’t help yourself can you Paul? On nearly every post on this site over the last year or so, you always try to bring more negativity to even the smallest positive. We WON the game. We could be 9-0 and you are still going to want to bring your negatives. The worst part about it is that you never seem to be able to add anything as to what you think could make the team better and why…Misery loves Company I guess. A Win is a Win, get over yourself.

  • Shea Fahr


  • Gloria Burke

    I keep waiting for that happy Monday morning feeling to finally hit me….I’m glad we won, but still not happy. But relatively happy not to be wearing the brown paper bag with holes for eyes this week.

  • Eric

    If you look at the RB numbers, Bell usually has the lowest YP Carry on the team since Redman got released.

  • Chad H

    I disagree with the players being a 4-3. Build your 4-3 defense with what we have then ask who are the backups and see what you have. I agree in the aspect that some could play in a 4-3 but up front we don’t have the personnel. I do believe Hood will end up as a 4-3 DT next year and have success there.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    Don’t get me wrong here, I love that we won and I hope for 7 more but I am also a realist and the fact is we have not been good this year and I cannot expect to win 7 with the way we have been playing this year but I will continue to support and get happy when we do something good and upset when we do something bad.

  • Matthew Marczi

    What exactly does that have to do with the topic at hand?

  • Eric

    This is a triple if, but IF Miami waives Jon Martin and IF no one else claims him and IF he takes the minimum then why not have another sophomore left tackle. The Steelers are believed to have one of the most mature locker rooms and I would venture to guess least racially divided, given the ownership. He could make it here if he cant make it anywhere, else.

  • charles

    Did you notice in the game when Worilds was on the left and Jones on the right that we seemed to more physically collapse the pocket and quicker? That grouping seemed to have that older Steelers hard hitting D feel.

  • Kevin Gobleck

    Hell at this point we may have to use our 1st rounder to get a punter who can get it past 30 yards consecutively

  • Mike Sweeney

    Don’t sweat Paul! He’s Paul. Paul, isn’t a happy person. Paul, puts words out there, cuz he likes to get under peoples skin, with weak analysis. Paul, is Paul. Nothing more and a whole lot of less. Go Paul and please, go away now. Thanks for your well astute contribution!

  • alex

    i agree, but at the same time, it allows us to prove we can run with our ‘eligible’ tackle/receiver…

    the O line needs some confidence, and im hoping that pushing a powerful Buffalo front 4 around will give them confidence for next week against DET!


    True…Al Woods is DT material, I understand coach Mitchell liked Nick Williams, also DT material…they would need to replace Fang, and imo Kesiel with depth @ DE…with any transition they would have to make a concerted personnel effort for the switch…predicated on LaBeau staying or going…I know he can still coach, but they do need a legit NT and will have to invest a big resource to get one I think.


    Yes…JJ was getting a lot of deep push but no one was coming inside of it on some of his best efforts I thought…somebody did come thru clean on one…I want to say Allen.


    Lot of ifs as you say…but I like the thought process…reuniting him with DeCastro. Unless I can get one of the top 2 OTs coming out I wouldn’t go OT with the 1st pick…I’d try this option for the right price.

  • Eric

    Unless we solve the Left OT problem some other way, we will be drafting one in round 1, but to put some prospective on this, Mike Adams was ranked the #2 tackle that year and Martin was #2.


    You’re suggesting they might not take the best available player over need in round one…that would be a different approach for them.

    If I were GM, I would go for Mike Evans, WR TXAM…imo he has #1 WR potential…with AB,Bell, Heath, Wheaton,Cotchery…you have a playoff caliber weapons for Ben…then in the 2nd round I would target Seantrel Henderson OT, the U…can move well…imo better than the Bama & Vol OTs that are coming out and will probably go mid round in the 1st.

    Wallace probably will be a 3rd rd comp pick and Lewis a 5th…they need to make these picks count like never before.

  • treeher

    I don’t see what starting Manny does for us at this point. I’d start Wheaton, give him the experience, and see what he’s made of. Also, we should thoroughly explore the Pop Warner league and get us a real punter.

  • Eric

    Last years draft was a mere replacement draft. Jones for Harrison, Bell for Mendenhal, Wheaton for Wallace. This years need is clearly O-line and left tackle in particular. Maybe we can fix this with free agency and Mike Adams not getting sandwiches in the South Side at 2:45 AM, but if we do not, then first round LT is the pick.
    I like Mike Evans but he does not have great speed and although he may offer more skill than Moye, I do not see him as the best player available by the time we pick or WR as the greatest need. My alternative to an OT would be Nix at NT.
    If I were to pick a player that will have the biggest impact next year, it would have to be Anthony Barr ILB. I doubt he will last past pick #5, but if the Steelers got him, I am buying everyone drinks at BB Kings on Beale street.
    Let me ask you, if Barr is the best available player and we have Woodley and Jones, would you still pick him or go with a good player at a position of need?


    I have a sense PIT will be picking middle of the pack again vs a top 10 pick…somewhere between 15 and 20…Evans is probably going in the area pending the combine.

    Taking a LT come hell or high water b/c you need one is what losing teams do…I lived in Tampa a long time ago and lived in ATL when they really sucked so I’ve seen this up close.

    Nix…I would absolutely go with him…but based on what Poe is doing in KC I think he will go pretty close to top 10 with a good combine.

    Barr…if the need player was rated much lower…I would take Barr. If the need player was rated slightly lower I would take the need player.