Next Men Up Have Made Next-Man-Up Discussion ‘A Non-Discussion’

It may feel to some like a tired and warn mantra, but the Pittsburgh Steelers embrace the ‘next man up’ philosophy. As cliché as it might be, after all, clichés spring from a grain of truth. And really, what else can you do? The next man up has no choice but to fill in.

The Steelers are facing that prospect this week after starting cornerback Joe Haden suffered an injury that will sideline him for a while, as Coty Sensabaugh, who was brought in early in the offseason to secure depth at the position, steps in as the ‘next man up’.

The sixth-year veteran saw his first playing time on defense all season, and filled in for more than half of the game, and frankly was rarely tested. I will have to take a deeper look at it, but from memory one of the only targets I can recall was on a comeback on third and six in the fourth quarter, on which he allowed six yards. He also gave up 16 yards to T.Y. Hilton on a double move.

The Colts were winning for most of the game, of course you’ll recall, so they didn’t spend a lot of time throwing the ball around, instead trying to run the ball as much as they could in the second half. They also had two drives end in long touchdowns and another end quickly on an interception, so those limited their opportunities to run plays.

While this might seem like the most high-profile instance, however, we all should be quite aware that the Steelers have been living the mantra all year. Chris Hubbard and Tyson Alualu have steadied the ship for most of the season in the long absences of starting right tackle Marcus Gilbert and defensive end Stephon Tuitt, respectively.

As Mike Tomlin said during his press conference yesterday, “Hubbard’s play made [Gilbert’s missed time] a non-discussion. We didn’t talk about it a bunch because his play was above the line. The same can be said of Tyson Alualu and him replacing Stephon Tuitt when he missed a substantial amount of time”.

One can only hope that the Steelers—and Sensabaugh—will weather the storm as well as Hubbard and Alualu allowed them to. The former Titans cornerback was actually in the discussion for the starting job before the Steelers were able to sign Haden following his release by the Browns.

Tomlin added that the success of players like Sensabaugh and Alualu, as well as other young risers like Mike Hilton and JuJu Smith-Schuster, “have fortified [the next man up] mentality”, which has admittedly served the team well for years.

It is of course a sentiment that is not unique to the Steelers by any means. Every team deals with injuries, and every team has a next man up that is expected to perform. I’m not sure many others have quite turned it into the unifying identity that Tomlin has crafted in Pittsburgh, though.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • CP72

    Sure the coaching staff deserves a measure of credit. The real heros though are Kevin Colbert and his scouts.

    He has managed to put together a deep and talented team. He did this with the a 20 million per year quarterback, the NFL’s highest paid WR and RB, 2 offensive and 2 defensive lineman making 10 million per season. Let’s not forget his average draft position is well into the bottom 3rd of league year end and year out.

    Colbert and his group are the most underrated piece of one of the best organizations in football.

  • steelburg

    The difference between Tomlin and other coaches is that he actually believes it when he says it. The Steelers as an organzation show it by sticking with guys that they have in house the majority of the time. They don’t immediately look for a FA especially after the season has started to fill a position where a guy important goes down. I think that thought process gives the players confidence that the coaches believe in them.

  • ImMikeD

    Take cover CP72, you’ve surely awakened and angered the nay sayers that will insist Colbert and Tomlin should be fired for missing on Tom Brady and Dan Marino, and not being in position to Draft Bens replacement 3 years ago

  • hdogg48

    Why not give Brian Allen a hat on Thursday?

    He’s big, strong, fast, athletic and FRESH.

    I know he’s got technique issues, but so has Artie and
    Co…giving up those 2 60+ yard bombs.

    Using this guy on a short week makes more sense than not.

    Rotate him in and out for a few plays…IMHO more upside
    than not.

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    He just might get to play since Joe will be inactive.Probably mainly special teams.

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    Pretty sure Ben’s salary this year is $12 million but maybe some bonus $$ also adds to his cap hit this season.
    Still, you bring up an important point; salary cap management is critical so that the team does not have too much of a drop off between the starters and back-ups.

  • steelburg

    He will get a hat this week they won’t want Sensabaugh playing extensive special teams.

  • CP72

    Ben’s cap number 18.6 this year and 23 last year. 23 million the next two years. Averages out to over 20 million per.

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    I don’t average them out since the salary cap hit impacts that specific season. You are spot on though; Ben’s salary this season is $12 million plus $6.2 million in signing bonus to make an $18.2 million cap hit this season according to SportTrac (he had a $31 million bonus spread over 5 years).

  • AndyR34

    Ah-h-h…the old “give him a few snaps” philosophy…how can it hurt. Well, it only took a few snaps last week to completely change the game for the Colts last Sunday. Steelers had a lot of failure surrounding their few successful plays.

  • Marcel Chris Chauvet

    Is that why lev bell never leaves the field?

  • Steeler Nation!

    The depth of the team is good. That said, the last thing we could afford would be another injury in our DB room. When you’re already on the ‘next man”, there’s little left to go to. Haden has made a difference to this team, and his loss will be felt. Hopefully we get him back sooner rather than later. Maybe more importantly, we are spared any additional injuries at the CB and S positions.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I’m assuming he will get a hat. That doesn’t mean he’ll play on defense though.

  • walter

    Is any of that from restructuring?

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    This is from a 4 year deal he signed in 2015.

    I think his previous deal may have been restructured in 2015.