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?