At 2-5, Steelers In Position to Experiment with Roster

Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

 

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.

 

Final Thoughts

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Stats & Contract Info. Provided By: ESPN.comSteelers.com , Spotrac, and Pro Football Reference

 

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Topics: Jarvis Jones, Markus Wheaton, Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers, Shamarko Thomas, Vince Williams

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  • Dave Buzard

    Sing along with me, people! ‘Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose……’

  • Ric Fernandez

    They wont do it because it would signal that they are flushing the season. But all of already know they have, so you are right.

    • Dom DiTolla

      I’d rather them finish 2-14, give Thomas, Williams, Wheaton (when healthy), J. Jones, and the rest of their younger players as much playing time to develop as possible, and pick up a high draft pick in the process, than see washed-up veterans or underachieving draft busts finish out the season in their place, finish with a 6-10 or 7-9 record, and witness the youngsters rot on the pine while the mediocrity prevails with Tomlin at the helm.

      They’d be better off taking a page out of the playbook of the ’83 Houston Rockets and the ’11 Indianapolis Colts than anything else now that they’re 2-5 and in the midst of a rebuilding campaign.

      • Thumper833

        Agree. At this point I am looking for improvement on the o line and the rookies. My worst fear is that they end up drafting outside the top 10.
        I think a loss to the Pats this weekend and you will see some of the young guys get more time. As far as Jones goes, I don’t think benching him will hurt him at all. He will still get plenty of snaps. The coach is correct, he seems lost out there quite a bit. LeBeau’s 3-4 is hard to learn for LBs. Now watch them beat the Pats Sunday.

        • Dom DiTolla

          I know “mailing it in” will be hard for the coaching staff from the standpoint of playing their younger guys, but they have the luxury of a front office above them which does not make quick-twitch decisions and will probably be open to the team playing the back end of their roster down the stretch to build for the future.

  • Nine

    Its called earning your playing time. The young guys need to learn that a starting position isn’t going to be handed to them, they will have to earn it. If Jarvis Jones learns to get on the details, by being benched, he will be a better player in the longterm for us because of it. Same with the other rookies.

    • Dom DiTolla

      Thomas has played well enough to “earn” it over the dreadful Ryan Clark, and I fail to see why mediocre veterans like Clark and Worilds are receiving a bulk of the reps when the season is already in the toilet. Extra experience can only help the future contributors on this roster.