At 2-5, the Pittsburgh Steelers are pretty much “dead and buried” when it comes to their postseason dreams. I personally do not mind that this team is three games under .500. In fact, I had no illusions that this rebuilding group would be remotely competitive this fall.
While I am fine with this team sagging at the moment, I for one am perplexed as to why the coaching staff is wasting a golden opportunity right now: benching and not starting their younger players.
Earlier in the week, it was reported by multiple outlets that rookie outside linebacker Jarvis Jones was benched in favor of mediocre veteran Jason Worilds. As inconsistent as the rookie had played during his first six professional games, it makes little sense to me as to why they would play a pending UFA like Worilds over their prized rookie.
In addition to Jones, why is Shamarko Thomas not entering the starting lineup over the washed-up Ryan Clark? While the rookie is best suited to play strong safety and has played extensively in Pittsburgh’s “quarter” and “dime” sub-packages, why is the talented rookie losing playing time to Clark and Troy Polamalu not shifting to free safety?
Clark’s inability to take correct angles to ball-carriers and pass-catchers, lack of speed, and inability to tackle on a consistent basis have been maddening to watch. The 34 year-old free safety is also an impending UFA like Worilds, and why Thomas and Robert Golden will likely be relegated to the bench in favor of Clark during the final nine games makes little to no sense whatsoever.
Rookie Vince Williams would likely be riding the pine too behind Larry Foote had the veteran inside linebacker not been injured during Pittsburgh’s first regular season game, and Markus Wheaton would definitely be sitting on the bench even if his pinkie was not broken.
As a rebuilding team with a 2-5 record, the Steelers are actually in an unbelievably advantageous position to evaluate what they have on their roster during the final nine games. The coaching staff shouldn’t be focused on playing “damage control” with over-the-hill and soon to be free agent players. Instead they should consider what extended playing time could do for the younger players they hope to build around down the road.
Developing their younger players and providing them with experience is what the coaching staff needs to do. Showering playing time on underachieving veterans does nothing but hurt the organization and their rebuilding efforts for the future.
Granted, I am sure that there are some of you might complain that, “Oh, the Steelers will continue to lose by playing their younger guys, etc..” To that I can only respond: “So what?”
Unless you haven’t noticed, the 2013 campaign is already circling the proverbial “crapper.” A team cannot build around draft busts like Worilds and aging and ineffective jokes like Clark. Therefore, why should valuable game experience be wasted at a juncture in which no postseason is on the horizon for this team? Plus, it doesn’t hurt that more losses could lead to better draft positioning as well.
Mike Tomlin & co. should be experimenting with this roster, not settling for the ineffective status quo. Bill Cowher and his coaching staff gave early chances and reps to guys like Alan Faneca, Joey Porter, Aaron Smith, Marvel Smith, Hines Ward, Plaxico Burress, and Casey Hampton during the last rebuilding era (1998-2001), and those players used their early experiences to develop into enormous reasons why this team won two Super Bowls during the last decade.
I for one don’t think it would hurt to follow the previous staff’s lead, and I hope that we get to see an extensive amount of Thomas, Jones, Wheaton, and more of Pittsburgh’s younger players down the stretch.
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