What Have They Done?

By Matthew Marczi

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.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • Shannon Stephenson

    Heyward from very early on seemed to be better than Hood and I have been screaming for Heyward since his sophomore year to get more playing time. We now see the results.

  • TheBlitz

    Quite frankly Beachum hasn’t looked great lately. At this point I’m not sure how he will fare against pro bowl caliber players such as Jared Allen and Julius Peppers, although he did reasonably well against Suggs. He might look just as bad as Adams did against those guys. I’m willing to give him a slight edge over Adams but not that much.

  • patrick Mayfield

    worth a note regarding Adams’ pancake block that this was against a LB if I heard correctly so he’s got probably 6 inches and 85 pounds on the guy. Great block don’t get me wrong but it’s not a DE he’s taking on there.

  • Chris Wilkes

    The fact that Wilson was even rotating with Williams was ridiculous. Sure, he was a rookie, but Wilson is garbage, and he made the team over a few players most fans thought as up-in-comers. Jones should’ve never started over Worilds either. He wasn’t even close to being ready, and it looks like he still isn’t. Gay is the one change that’s proved successful, due to injury not really a coaching move, but the game plan they had for Gronkowski was, well…. they had NO game plan. Heyward should’ve started over Ziggy a year ago. Long overdue! I’m also not sold on Beachum over Adams at LT. They both suck at that position. Adding Levi Brown was described as a critical move, but after he was injured putting his jersey on for the first time we’ve sat back and accepted Beachum and his 2 sacks per game. Other moves you could criticize are the choice to give the RB job to Redman, and send Dwyer to the street. And, the decisions on the punting job have also hurt this team quite a bit.


    V Williams…I like him…learning on the fly, Wilson with more time in the system was no better.

    Beachum…I like his spunk, but he’s not a LT at this level…as the games have added up we’re seeing him get over matched more and more. Adams has taken his demotion like a man, playing like he wants to start when he’s in there…he did look terrible, but I still wonder if the record prompted the benching.

    Allen…I have to give it to Gay he’s played better than I expected…not the athlete Allen is.