With the first four weeks of the NFL season in the books, the Pittsburgh Steelers are at a crossroads. Sitting at 0-4, head coach Mike Tomlin is going to have some tough decisions to make regarding personnel during the bye week.
Should the Steelers make wholesale changes during the bye in hopes of injecting new life into the roster? Sadly, the answer is no. Not because they aren't needed, but because the depth on this team doesn't really allow for a lot of changes.
There is always the option of going out onto the waiver wire and making changes that way. However, that isn't traditionally the way the Steelers have done business, so don't expect big moves that way.
Having said that, there are some moves that have been made and more that should be made between now and the end of the bye.
The first shoe dropped Wednesday when the Steelers made a trade with the Arizona Cardinals to bring in left tackle Levi Brown:
Levi Brown heads from Arizona Cardinals to Steelers http://t.co/2Nx6av9yKh— FOX NFL Desk (@FOXNFLDESK) October 2, 2013
This move smacks of desperation, because according to ProFootballFocus.com (subscription required), Brown is the 60th-ranked starting offensive tackle in the league this season, compared to Mike Adams, who is ranked 68th. The trade was financially a smart move, but unless Brown makes a huge jump in talent, it seems there is no real gain.
On the defensive side of the ball, this team needs far more Jarvis Jones and Vince Williams. Jones and Williams are still working in as rotational players at linebacker, but moving forward, there is no reason these two young men shouldn't get the lion's share of the snaps.
Everyone knows what Jason Worilds and Kion Wilson give the Steelers, but they are just scratching the surface of what Jones and Williams can do as part of that front seven.
The same goes for safety Shamarko Thomas.
Ryan Clark has been dreadful this year. He is compiling some decent stats but missing far too many plays. If there is a player on this team that age seems to be catching up to, it is Clark.
Meanwhile, Thomas is the type of talent who has been athletic enough to fill in as the nickel cornerback and should be able to have an impact at safety. Now that all hands are on deck for the Steelers' cornerbacks, he could be relegated to special teams, but that would be a waste of what is so much raw potential.
Another move I would make if I was running this team would be to clean house in the offensive backfield. Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer would both be gone. Neither has been effective, and they are both strictly backups to rookie Le'Veon Bell at this point.
Keep Felix Jones in the mix and pull Alvester Alexander off the practice squad as a third running back. Keeping Redman and Dwyer around will just make Tomlin feel obligated to put them on the field. Neither adds any sort of explosion to the offense like this team needs.
Should the Steelers make big roster changes during the bye week?
Speaking of offense, rookie wide receiver Markus Wheaton needs more snaps. Even if it's a 50/50 split situation with veteran Jerricho Cotchery in the WR3 role, this team needs to know exactly what it has with Wheaton. Going forward, more decisions will have to be made about this unit, so the more information it has, the better off it will be.
No drastic changes, but when your roster is this thin, drastic changes cannot be made. This team takes criticism for its age, so why not do everything it can to find out if the young players on this roster can be competitive for the remainder of the season? The future is now.