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.