Following last week’s 24-point trouncing by the New England Patriots, a lot of reporters covering the Pittsburgh Steelers suddenly hit the contemplative switch and brainstormed to come up with this most amazing of questions: why hasn’t Mike Tomlin made any changes to make the team better?
The most amazing feature of this question, pondered by more than one paid journalist, is, obviously, the fact that Tomlin has actually made several moves this season. Have they made the team better? Well, let’s take a look at the moves on a case-by-case basis:
Inside Linebacker: Vince Williams over Kion Wilson
Remember Wilson? He stepped in when Larry Foote got injured in the season opener because Williams wasn’t even dressed. Now, with Wilson finally back on the roster after being released, he is spending his Sundays in street clothes, despite the fact that he made the roster for his special teams ability. Meanwhile, Williams continues to improve, and certainly is making no more mistakes than Wilson did in his brief playing time. He plays with instinctiveness and hustle, two things you can’t teach. Is he perfect? No. But he’s the better replacement for Foote than Wilson—as well as Stevenson Sylvester, for that matter.
Outside Linebacker: Jason Worilds over Jarvis Jones over Jason Worilds
If we’re being honest, we might say that Worilds starting the opening week was perhaps just an honorary distinction, because it was clear all along that the coaching staff intended to get Jones in the lineup, which happened the following week. But Jones lost his spot a few weeks back after continuing a string of worrying plays that displayed a lack of discipline and adherence to assignments. Worilds has for the most part played well in the interim, including a quality day as a pass rusher last week, registering two sacks. More importantly, he has been more assignment-steady, and Jones has continued to get his work in. Yesterday, he registered his first career sack.
Cornerback: William Gay over Cortez Allen
Allen was entering his first season as a starter when he came up lame not even halfway through his first game. Gay filled in admirably, despite the team continuing to lose, until Allen returned against the Minnesota Vikings and proceeded to look lost. Gay has been starting since. He and most of the defense had a disastrous showing last week; however, he was one of the best players on the field yesterday, being instrumental in the team’s edge rushing defense. Allen continues to work himself in rotationally, and should be ready to step into the starting lineup on a moment’s notice.
Defensive End: Cameron Heyward over Ziggy Hood
There is no question that this move deserves universal acceptance. Since emerging into the starting rotation, Heyward has truly blossomed into an impact player at a position that usually does not have much impact. While he has been a productive pass rusher all year, notching a sack in the past two games, he has also been on the rise in the running game to boot. Hood continues to play in order to give both ends a blow every now and then, and perhaps looks better as a reserve.
Left Tackle: Kelvin Beachum over Mike Adams
Adams had simply been too porous too frequently in the passing game to keep him in the starting lineup any more. While Beachum is no superstar, he plays with better technique and intelligence, and thus makes fewer mistakes. In other words, he is the less dangerous option for now. Adams continues to work on his fundamentals, nabbing valuable playing time as a sixth lineman. He even earned a pancake on Le’Veon Bell’s touchdown run yesterday. He has had to fill in sparingly at both tackle positions since his demotion. While he still has work to do, these experiences will only help him on his trek back into the starting lineup.