With the playoffs all but out of reach for the Pittsburgh Steelers is it time to start sitting some veterans in favor of younger players eager to prove their worth?
This is a tough one.
On one hand you've got to figure into the equation that there's some age in the Steelers lineup and on the other you've got to factor in that apparently something's not working.
But when is the right time to work the younger guys into the lineup without completely shutting down for the season, in other words, how do you give up without saying that you give up?
Keep in mind that I in no way, shape, or form condone quitting. I learned from a young age that once you make a commitment you follow it through to the end, whether you enjoy it or not.
This, of course, applied directly to sports. Once I started, there was no quitting.
Which is why there's no particular reason to completely sit anyone on the team. There is, however, reason to rotate some guys in and out of the lineup during the course of the next three games.
Let's take a look at some of the rotations that could work out well for the team come next season.
Quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger and Dennis Dixon should both experience playing time over the next three weeks.
I fully understand that this may not be a popular decision by any means, but what have we got to lose?
Dixon is nearly certain to be the backup for at least a few more years with Charlie Batch likely done after this season plays out so why not make sure that he's ready when called upon? Give him a quarter to showcase his talent to the masses.
Running backs Rashard Mendenhall and Stefan Logan should do a somewhat unbalanced splitting of carries. Mendenhall will of course (deservedly) get the bulk of the carries with Logan getting a few every now and then. Maybe something to the effect of a 75-25 split.
Logan brings a skill set to the table that Willie Parker used to, one that San Diego Chargers' back Darren Sproles gives them—the speedy back that if he can get to the edge can really hurt a defense.
Along with that, he's currently ranked third in the NFL in kick return yards.
Wide receivers Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes, Mike Wallace, and Limas Sweed should all get some playing time in my humble opinion.
The first two are, of course, a duo of Super Bowl MVP's, Wallace is the rookie sensation, and Sweed is the former second-round pick that has done nothing but disappoint with his dropped passes.
But I propose one last chance for Sweed; let's see if he can fix his concentration problems and haul in a few passes before season's end. Perhaps the problem with him is confidence.
The Steelers threw him into the fire, expecting him to be Nate Washington in a nutshell. Though both are speedy receivers, neither has exceptional hands. What I propose to do to solve this problem for Sweed is to not have him run the streak route all of the time.
Give him some shorter routes, maybe a few quick slants, drags, curls, etc. Let him catch a few passes and build his confidence up. The Cowboys did the same thing with Michael Irvin in the 1990s. Running a go route is a stressful thing for a wide receiver, especially a young one with little confidence. It's an all or nothing route.
Left guards Chris Kemoeatu and Ramon Foster are already splitting some time due to Kemoeatu's injury. Foster will be the starter come the game against the Green Bay Packers. Hopefully the organization found a diamond in the rough with the rookie. We sorely need some help, especially in the run blocking game.
Center Justin Hartwig and, well, just about anyone will suffice. He's literally the worst starting center in the league and a solution to that problem would be fantastic to see. Let some other players snap the ball to Roethlisberger, let Kraig Urbik take a shot at it perhaps?
These are just a few of the ways that the Steelers can work some younger guys into a position to make plays for the team.
The one thing this team has to do though, win or lose, is come out with some fight, some heart, something, anything.
Up next is possible rotations for the defense.