Pittsburgh Steelers Veterans Who Have Been Put on Notice This Offseason
Coming off an 8-8 season, every Pittsburgh Steelers player should feel at least a little uneasy about his job security heading into 2013.
The Steelers are teetering on the brink of mediocrity, so everyone needs to improve.
Five veterans in particular have been put on notice this offseason, either through the draft or free-agent acquisitions.
If these players don't get the message, they'll either be sitting on the bench or handing in their playbooks.
If these players do take notice, the Steelers might have a chance to improve on last season's .500 showing.
Jason Worilds officially was put on notice when NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced Jarvis Jones' name on April 25 at Radio City Music Hall.
The Steelers must replace James Harrison at right outside linebacker. Worilds' name is at the top of the depth chart, but it's not written in ink.
Worilds has 10 career sacks, including five in 2012. The Steelers used their first-round draft pick, No. 17 overall, on Jones because they've been underwhelmed by Worilds' progress.
As an outside linebacker at Georgia, Jones earned a college football triple crown by leading the nation with 14.5 sacks, 24.5 tackles for loss and seven forced fumbles in 2012.
If Jones wins the starting job at right outside linebacker, he'd be the first Steelers rookie to start on defense since Dick LeBeau became defensive coordinator in 2004.
Even if Worilds starts while Jones learns the ropes, he won't be the long-term starter unless he raises his game.
Hours after signing free agent running back LaRod Stephens-Howling, the Steelers drafted Michigan State running back Le'Veon Bell in the second round.
Then on Day 3 of the draft, the Steelers dangled Jonathan Dwyer as trade bait, according to Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network via Pro Football Talk.
The message rang loud and clear that Dwyer was expendable.
Dwyer led the Steelers with 623 rushing yards in 2012, but it was the lowest total for a Steelers' leading rusher since Merril Hoge ran for 610 yards in 1991. Dwyer led a rushing attack that was 26th in the NFL with 96.1 yards per game.
The Steelers have attempted to re-establish their ground game through the draft. With Bell the presumptive starter, the Steelers have Dwyer, Isaac Redman, Baron Batch and Stephens-Howling to back him up.
Unless Dwyer shows the Steelers something they haven't seen from him, he could be the odd man out.
Curtis Brown, the Steelers' third-round pick in the 2011 NFL draft, has performed well on special teams. He led the Steelers in special-teams tackles as a rookie.
However, he's developed slowly at cornerback.
The Steelers have made some moves this offseason that indicate their patience with him is wearing thin.
With Keenan Lewis going to the Saints as a free agent, Cortez Allen is projected to start at right cornerback. Instead of sliding Brown to nickel back, the Steelers brought back William Gay to fill that role. Gay played in Pittsburgh for five years before spending a year in Arizona.
The Steelers then chose Terry Hawthorne of Illinois in the fifth round of the draft, which gives Brown one more person to compete with to keep his spot on the team.
Stevenson Sylvester, drafted in the fifth round in 2010, has contributed little outside of special teams.
Vince Williams, the Steelers' compensatory sixth-round draft pick, seems to be learning inside linebacker at a much quicker pace than Sylvester.
The Steelers didn't think enough of Sylvester to place a restricted free agent tender on him. That would have cost them $1.323 million for 2013. Instead, the Steelers allowed Sylvester to become an unrestricted free agent and signed him to a one-year contract worth $630,000, according to Spotrac.
The Steelers had little choice but to hang onto Sylvester because there's so little depth behind Larry Foote and Lawrence Timmons at inside linebacker. Sean Spence, their third-round pick in 2012, might not play again after injuring his knee in a 2012 preseason game.
If the Steelers' tepid effort to keep him isn't enough for Sylvester to take notice, perhaps Williams' performance in rookie minicamp will be.
Steelers Digest editor Bob Labriola, speaking on Steelers.com LIVE, said Williams was instructing teammates and showing them where to line up during rookie minicamp. He also said Williams shows potential to be a special-teams standout.
Labriola pointed out that Williams frequently called the plays at Florida State and has a "very high football IQ."
Sylvester's productivity has declined in each of his three years. After making 14 combined tackles as a rookie, he had seven in 2011 and one last season. He'll have to reverse that trend to remain a Steeler.
The Steelers brought in an accomplished punter to compete with Drew Butler, who was nothing special as a rookie.
Pittsburgh signed former Bill and Cowboy Brian Moorman last month. A two-time Pro Bowler, the 37-year-old Moorman averaged a net 38.9 yards per punt in 12 games with Dallas last season. Butler's average was 37.8 yards.
Butler had one punt blocked last season, and it gave the Tennessee Titans the ball at the Steelers' 1-yard line. The Titans punched it in for the touchdown and went on to upset the Steelers 26-23.
Moorman has had just two blocked punts in his 12-year-career.
Butler has age on his side. He'll be 24 next season. He punted 77 times in 2012 while Moorman punted 56 times with the Cowboys.
Butler had 26 of his punts downed inside the 20. Moorman had 22. Butler induced 20 fair catches. Moorman's punts were fair caught 11 times, which tied him for 30th in the NFL.
Many of the numbers are in Butler's favor, but he'll still have to work to keep his job.