Pittsburgh Steelers: 5 Starters Who Should Have Reduced Playing Time
There are few organizations in sports as steady as the Pittsburgh Steelers. They do not make rash moves and stick to their philosophy.
At times, they are steady to a fault. That may have been the case this past Sunday in which the Steelers’ took a 35-7 drubbing from the Baltimore Ravens.
Pittsburgh had no business getting blown out; in fact, they really should not have lost this game.
But that is not how the game played out. The Steelers lost, and they lost badly.
Baltimore physically beat up the Steelers. They controlled the line of scrimmage and dictated the tempo on both offense and defense with their aggressive style of play.
The Steelers looked lost and they looked old. The same group players that have helped the Steelers get to three Super Bowl appearances in the past six years may have finally hit the wall.
However, Pittsburgh sticks with the guys that got them there. Mike Tomlin trotted his veteran team onto the field, and for good reason: They are a successful bunch.
After Sunday, though, there is some hard evidence to the offseason chatter about the Steelers age.
Besides some of the aging veterans, there are still serious question marks along the offensive line and in the defensive backfield.
This raises the question. Is it time for some starters to have their playing time reduced? It is not like the Steelers to overreact after one game, but it at least has to be in the back of the mind of Tomlin and the rest of the coaching staff.
Here are the starters who should have their playing time reduced as the season progresses.
Two seasons ago, James Farrior looked to be done. Last year, he bounced back and had a very good season.
Farrior looked slowed in the preseason, and the 36-year-old linebacker was removed from the game Sunday, with Larry Foote stepping in.
Farrior appeared to be back in 2009 form, missing tackles and was slow to the ball. Though he was credited with five tackles, he was more of a liability against the quickness of Ray Rice.
The problem is, Foote is not the answer, either. He is a fine backup and spot duty player, but is not who you want starting full time at this point of his career.
Pittsburgh could use an athletic player such as Stevenson Sylvester in the lineup, but he is not ready yet.
It is only one game, but Farrior’s great years of service to the Steelers look to be coming to a very near end.
Last year, Aaron Smith was still at the top of his game before suffering a third major injury in four seasons.
Now Smith looks like a player who has been banged up for a number of years. He did not have the best preseason, as the defensive line struggled and he was being pushed around by Baltimore’s offensive line.
This is almost unheard for Smith.
After a breakout season last year, Ziggy Hood looked like he would take a significant amount of playing time from Smith but did not show enough during the preseason to take over the starting job.
Ready or not, it is time for Hood to take over the starting role in place of Smith.
Smith will be fine in the defensive line rotation coming off the bench, and Hood has enough experience that he should be able to step in as a starter.
On the other side of the defensive line, Brett Keisel did not have a poor game with four tackles, including one for a loss. But he was a part of a line that got shredded by the Ravens’ ground attack.
Quickly closing in on Keisel is first round draft choice Cameron Heyward. He had a solid preseason and is more advanced than any Steelers rookie defensive lineman in recent memory.
Heyward is capable both against the run and rushing the passer and is a key future piece of the defense.
Though Heyward may not be ready to start now, he should see more snaps in the upcoming weeks and may be able to win the starting job before the season is over.
Doug Legursky is the ultimate underdog.
He went undrafted and is undersized but works hard and has earned his starting job.
Well, I’m not so sure about that last part. Legursky seemed to fall into the starting right guard job.
Ramon Foster seemed to be the early favorite but fell out of favor before Tony Hills appeared to take the lead.
Despite playing pretty well, Hills was released and Legursky was given the starting job.
Now after struggling at Baltimore, he will start again next week, but I do not foresee him making the entire season.
Legursky was a part of allowing Haloti Ngata come in freely to force Rashard Mendenhall to fumble, and he can still be physically overmatched by larger defensive linemen.
Before too long, do not be surprised to see Foster back in the lineup.
Bryant McFadden has become a bigger liability than William Gay because he is the starter and continually gets burned by the opposition.
McFadden was targeted early by the Ravens and allowed a touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin.
The problem with the pass is that he had it well-defended but fell, meaning he failed to make a play on the ball.
This is becoming the norm with McFadden, not the exception.
Gay is not the answer at starter either, meaning that Keenan Lewis or either Curtis Brown or Cortez Allen, both rookies, take his job.
McFadden no longer looks like a capable starter, so how much worse could it be to have any of the other options in there?
Maybe Tomlin makes no changes as the season progresses, but how long will he watch certain starters struggle and not given backups, though unproven, a chance? Only time will tell.
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