Pittsburgh announced the benching of left tackle Mike Adams in favor of Kelvin Beachum and also traded a conditional pick to Arizona for disgruntled lineman Levi Brown. Earlier this week, it became apparent that former first-round pick Ziggy Hood would also be losing his starting job to Cameron Heyward.
Rookie safety Shamarko Thomas is also expected to see more time on the field as part of the big changes Tomlin and Co. have brought about on the team's bye week.
But are they the right changes going forward? Let's check out some of the moves the Steelers should have made during the bye week.
Mike Adams to RT; Marcus Gilbert to LT
This seemed like the most obvious move in the world when the season started. In fact, there was no reason the Steelers shouldn't have gone into the 2013 season with Adams on the right side and Gilbert on the left.
Gilbert began last season as the team's right tackle but was eventually injured and replaced by Adams. Adams showed good promise as a run-blocker but struggled mightily in pass protection. He progressed well every week, however, forcing Gilbert to begin work behind Max Starks on the left side of the line.
So, for some reason in 2013, Pittsburgh just decided it was a better option to put Adams on the left. A decision that obviously hasn't worked out too well for the Steelers.
So why not swap the two players?
According to an ESPN.com article, Gilbert said, "I think the coaches feel comfortable where I'm at now. I think sticking to the right side is the plan for me right now."
Marcus Gilbert is probably the best pass-blocking lineman the Steelers have, with Adams potentially being the best versus the run. That screams left and right tackles, respectively. But apparently the Steelers don't agree, and it could end up being a huge mistake.
Kelvin Beachum at Left Guard
But 2012 has not been a banner year for the guard.
Foster has looked out of position often and has whiffed on some key blocks in the running game. It may be time for a change at the Steelers' interior. And Kelvin Beachum should be the guy.
Beachum will start at left tackle for the team on Sunday. But, let's face it, like Adams, the Steelers seem to be setting Beachum up to fail. He's a better run-blocker than pass protector and has blocked better on the interior.
That screams guard.
Beachum should be and currently is a starter on this pedestrian offensive line, but he's playing the wrong spot. Pittsburgh should give him a shot to play inside where he fits much better.
Steve McLendon at LDE; Ziggy Hood at NT
I had a pretty firm stance in April that Steve McLendon would make a better defensive end than nose tackle in the Steelers' scheme, and I'm sticking to that. I also had a pretty firm stand that Ziggy Hood could lose his job in camp, and that's already come to fruition.
Hood has been ousted by fellow first-rounder Cameron Heyward for his end position, but how much of a difference does that really make?
Heyward has shown little more than flashes of pass-rush ability, which certainly doesn't make him a candidate for an every-down player. He struggles against the run and taking on blocks at the point of attack.
McLendon has put on some weight this offseason, but his natural position is at defensive end where he can force double-teams and be a run-stuffer. He's struggled to shed blocks at the nose, and his natural pass-rush ability has been hindered by being forced inside. On the edge, he'll have an easier time against the (mostly) lighter tackles and would have a better shot to use his pass rush.
Conversely, Hood is best when stopping the run. He's not a great lateral mover and doesn't get to the quarterback well. The 300-pounder is still a little light inside, but he's probably the best option Pittsburgh has for the nose.
I get that the Steelers need to see what they have in Heyward, and with Hood in a contract year, he becomes expendable after 2013. But just two games back of the division lead, this team needs to do everything it can to win games. And if that means a major shakeup on the defensive line, then so be it.
More Shamarko Thomas
This is a move the Steelers will actually be making come Sunday, or so the reports say. But at what cost, and who will end up missing time?
Well, according to reports, it will be longtime starter Ryan Clark.
Thomas was only averaging 16 snaps per game heading into the bye week, and Pittsburgh certainly needs to up that. But I'm not sure removing Clark is the right option. Outside of Lawrence Timmons and Heath Miller, Clark was the best player the Steelers had in 2012. It's hard to imagine his play has dropped off that much.
Pittsburgh could use Thomas in more of a nickel-back role as both William Gay and Cortez Allen have struggled in coverage this year. Thomas could be used deep if the Steelers pulled an inside linebacker (not named Timmons) off the field and allowed Troy Polamalu to become a permanent fixture in the box.
In other words, the Steelers need to get a little more creative than just splitting snaps between Clark and Thomas.
There's no question Clark has slowed over the years, but benching him isn't the answer. Thomas, however, does need to see more of the field—and he will.
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