Dan Rooney questions 'Next Man Up' mantra

Ronald Martinez

Steelers chairman emeritus Dan Rooney mentions the reality behind the cliche saying of "Next Man Up." When a team is barraged with injuries, sometimes, there's nothing you can do to keep things moving forward.

It's a more humorous sidenote than anything else, but it's worth pointing out.

In Ed Bouchette's feature Thursday regarding Steelers chairman emeritus Dan Rooney's return to the Steelers on a full-time basis after a three-year stint as the U.S. Ambassador to Ireland, Rooney questioned the validity of head coach Mike Tomlin's mantra of "Next Man Up" in regards to the injuries the Steelers have suffered recently.

Coaches will say, "We have to play with what we have and guys are supposed to step in." You can't say that you're trying to build up a young guy in his first or second year and get him to be able to play; you can't say that if you get your first-line guy hurt that you're going to put one of these guys in here and they'll play the same."

To be fair, Tomlin is not the only coach to use this expression. And it isn't designed to explain strategy in any way, but rather, reinforce the same expectations for all players.

Last season, the Steelers saw cornerback Ike Taylor injured and out for a home showdown with San Diego in Week 14. Fellow starter Keenan Lewis was injured during the game, and it thrust little-used Curtis Brown into action.

Needless to say, the Steelers got validation on why Brown was the team's fourth cornerback.

Tomlin needs Brown to have the mentality of going in to perform at the same level as those in front of him. In reality, as Rooney points out, there is reason why that may not happen. And it didn't. The Steelers defense was shredded on third down by Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers, and hit two big plays on Brown en route to a 34-24 win (it wasn't even that close).

Hopefully Brown will be able to respond from that this season, and the point isn't to savage him in this space (any more than we probably already have) or to suggest there's discord among the decision-making staff, but rather, to discuss Rooney's acknowledgement of the elephant in the room - even if his head coach isn't, by mandate, allowed to point that out.


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