2017 South Side Questions: How Will Mack Duties Be Redistributed?

The journey toward the Super Bowl is now well under way with the Pittsburgh Steelers back practicing at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, still informally referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility. With the regular season standing in their way on the path to a Lombardi, there will be questions for them to answer along the way.

We have asked and answered a lot of questions during the preseason and through training camp, but much of the answer-seeking ends in the regular season, and teams simply have to make do with what they have available to them. Still, there will always be questions for us.

You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the regular season and beyond as they develop, looking for the answers as we evaluate the makeup of the Steelers on their way back to the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.

Question: How will the Steelers redistribute roles at mack inside linebacker this week?

On Sunday, during their first game without Ryan Shazier this season, the Steelers defense turned to three different players to fill the void he left. They went out and picked Sean Spence back up off the street, and he shouldered the bulk of the load, but Arthur Moats and L.J. Fort also played.

As Mike Tomlin said during his pre-game press conference yesterday, all three players had their positives and negatives, though some had more negatives than others, and really contributed to the big rushing day for running back Alex Collins.

Tomlin said that the performances if each would be evaluated during the course of the week and they will determine based on that a possible redistribution of roles in taking over Shazier’s assignments in the defense.

One thing to be said of Spence is that he was clearly rusty after having not been on a team in months. I am certainly inclined to believe that he is capable of turning in a better performance than Sunday night’s game, given some snaps under his belt and more than a few days of practice.

Moats, in my opinion, largely just looked like he was out of position. And I don’t necessarily mean out of position within the play—though that happened—but simply playing a position he’s not suited for. I wouldn’t be surprised if he is virtually eliminated from the rotation.

Without a proper update on Tyler Matakevich, I am at the moment inclined to believe that he is not playing this week. That should open the door for more playing time for Fort, who was seemingly the odd man out in the discussion.

For years, we have heard bits from the coaching staff about Fort, and how they believe he is the most athletic linebacker behind Shazier with coverage ability. I think he showed a bit of that against the Ravens, and it would figure to be useful against the Patriots.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi
Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • Steve Johnson

    Could that be a problem? Trying to use multiple guys to fix one problem? I would prefer they worry about the short passes out of the backfield. They use their RB’s as good as any team I’very seen. With that said, I think LT Fort is the man.

  • Av232

    I think it’s telling that Tomlin “forgot” to ask the medical staff about Tyler. He’s either pretty hurt, or Tomlin doesn’t think too highly of him as a possible replacement.

  • Jim Foles

    Maybe they should fix the giant hole sitting at Dupree’s position.

  • Jim Foles

    I think its telling that the whole defensive coaching staff needs to be replaced..

  • Out of the three options, Fort is the only guy with speed. Spence could be a option once he gets up to game speed, but that could take a few more weeks.

  • Av232

    Lolol holy shtuff that’s dumb

    On that note, I think half the fan base needs replaced. Go burn your stuff

  • Steel Realist PAul

    Here’s a thought.. the Steelers ILBs will never be as quick as the smaller receivers and RBs out of the backfield to quite ‘cover’ them, but I know V. Williams wants to hit somebody. And whoever they line up next to him inside should too.

    It wasn’t THAT long ago that the Steelers sometimes beat teams be outphysicaling them. Basically, they punished anyone who had the audacity to come into THEIR part of the field.

    Hit them. Hit them very hard. And they will not prosper.

  • Steel Realist PAul

    I’m with you; although I think it’s the latter. Love big red, but he seemed way too slow in that last game – outmatched even.

  • John Pennington

    Kelsey should be in the mix if not why.Moates brings nothing to the defense and he is to slow.A man who has been playing the outside moves inside and you have a true young ILB on the practice squad not getting a chance is wrong.Time to get the best players on the field and stop playing favoritism to players who cant get the job done.That goes for all positions.

  • falconsaftey43

    I’m not sure why they felt better playing Moats and Spence off the street in there more than Fort. I’ve thought Fort has done well when he has played. I’d lean on him more. Spence can be in the mix perhaps as he gets up to speed, but he was probably the worst defender last week. I know he hasn’t been here, but he did play for the Colts up through week 4. That’s like a long term injury, not retirement.

  • Ryan Alderman

    Based on athleticism alone I’d say Fort, but then again look how athletic Bryant is, and we clearly see how productive he’s been. Intangibles like instinct, football IQ, mental awareness are just as critical, if not more so, in my opinion.

  • Ryan Alderman

    He did seem awfully slow in that one, but I also think he’s capable of bouncing back.

  • Ryan Alderman


  • Ryan Alderman

    Today’s NFL will flag you for it. I think it’s absurd and agree with you otherwise.

  • Jim Foles

    Munchak seems to have the OL together and our other O coaches have there shiiite together. Whats with the defense with 7 top picks plus good db’s that can’t play together?? Just looking at logic.

  • Jim Foles

    Football IQ on defense seems to be an issue often..

  • Steel Realist PAul

    I don’t mean illegal hits, although sometimes there is no intent and those can happen.

  • Richard

    Spence was cut from a team that is 3-10. Does that tell us anything?

  • AndyR34

    Um-m-m-m…the FO and coaching staff aren’t very good? They are playing with basically a third string QB?

  • Av232

    He seemed slow and confused. At least Fort and Spence are sort of fast and confused.

  • Av232

    I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we’ve had one game without our star linebacker, multiple games without our safety, and multiple games without our star CB. O line is without Gilbert and has had plenty of opportunities to work without him. Apples to oranges.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Agreed. Leave Vince out there. He will cover and hammer people and has been an excellent blitzer.

  • Ehrren Lee Phyzeque

    Fort doesn’t depend on a mostly inaccurate quarterback this season ie a quarterback who’s been inaccurate most of the season and an OC who has been unimaginative to say the least. Roethlisberger has yet master an effective deep ball to anyone other than Antonio Brown. Any QB can throw a deep ball to Brown or any ball to Brown. Defensive athleticism completely different from offensive athleticism. The difference being reaction.

  • Jim Foles

    favoritism… seems like that happens on the defense way more.

  • Biggie

    Need to use them all and bring them constantly against brady. It won’t matter at all who is playing in the middle if we don’t bring the house against both the passing game and run game. There is a reason we do better at the end of the game over the beginning of the game and that is because they have to make plays at the end so they start bringing everyone. Do that in the beginning and use the bench players to spell not only LBs but DL too then we have a solid chance against patsies. Miami brought constant pressure and frustrated brady, we have to do the same, especially when we can’t cover anyone for more than 3 seconds right now. Need to play man and bring pressure. Don’t want to get in a shooting match even as well as our offense has been playing. We have lulls on offense too because we don’t stay aggressive. We have yet to play a game where we were aggressive on both sides of the ball the full game. If we did this we could beat anyone.

  • Roblisberger

    He’s not very good. Also explains why he wasn’t one of the 4 guys on the roster before Shazier got hurt.

  • Roblisberger

    It’s a good thing you aren’t the coach. If you knew the first thing about the Patriots you know not to bring a lot of blitz on Brady. He is the best QB in the world against the blitz, even better than when there’s no blitz. Dolphins got pressure because they have elite d-linemen that were able to be off the field most of the game

  • Roblisberger

    I’m thinking we might have to put a safety in as middle linebacker. Gives us a better chance to cover gronk and also run sideline to sideline on those stretch runs that killed us last week. I think our dline is physical enough to make up for it and their RBs aren’t necessarily a big threat to run between the tackles. Do we still have that damien stafford guy on the roster that we brought in to play in the box? That or maybe wilcox

  • Steve Johnson

    I agree. Better yet, they should fix Dupree and yet again draft another OLB. Dupree isn’t the answer, I guess it will take them five years to figure that out. Dupree is a Huge Disappointment.