The Pittsburgh Steelers were embarrassed on a national stage in Week 14 when their comeback efforts vs. the Minnesota Vikings came up short in a 36-28 loss. It was the team’s sixth loss of the season, and it has become increasingly clear change is needed.
Fans see it, coaches see it and I’m sure even the players on the field see it. But change is easy to suggest, but finding that change isn’t always as easy.
To be quite honest, while many bemoan the roster/depth chart and want change, it is also important to realize the team is running out of options. After the game Mike Tomlin was asked about those changes, and his response was expected.
“We’ve got 10 days, 11 days, whatever, between now and our next one, so we’ll do whatever we can to strengthen ourselves.”
‘Whatever we can’ is extremely limited at this point. When you consider the amount of rookies who are starting, and not necessarily on their own merit, you can see just how thin this roster is at several positions.
Look at the inside linebacker position as the perfect example. When the team opened their training camp, it was supposed to be Vince Williams and Devin Bush roaming the middle of the Steelers’ defense. Williams retired, and Robert Spillane filled in; however, Spillane’s play during the preseason showed his 2020 performance might have been a flash in the pan.
It was obvious Spillane had issues in coverage, so the Steelers made a trade with the Jacksonville Jaguars for Joe Schobert. Immediately Schobert took the field and looked to be a mainstay in the center cog of the defense. Nonetheless, it didn’t take long for both Bush and Schobert to show their limitations on the field.
Now, after 13 games played, the coaching staff decided to really blow it up. In the prime time game vs. the Vikings the Steelers deployed rookie Buddy Johnson and even Marcus Allen in different sub packages.
At this point, the Steelers are throwing everything they have against the wall, and hope something sticks.
The same can be said along the offensive line. Fans are frustrated with Kendrick Green at center, but who is going to fill in? If there was a veteran on the open market, the Steelers would have likely brought them in, but the backups on the roster are all injured. J.C. Hassenauer is on Injured Reserve (IR) with a pectoral injury, B.J. Finney is out of the lineup with a back injury and the team has turned to John Leglue as the potential answer at guard.
So, while searching for options at center, the Steelers have exhausted their depth at guard while Kevin Dotson is on IR with a high ankle sprain.
Throughout the roster you can find tales like this. Akhello Witherspoon’s journey to the Steelers and eventually a starting role. Montravious Adams finding his way from the New Orleans Saints practice squad to the starting nose tackle for the Pittsburgh Steelers after being in town just a few days.
Everyone wants change, but it isn’t as if the coaching staff isn’t trying. This roster has been absolutely decimated with the decreased salary cap in 2021, and the organization is partly responsible for kicking so many contracts down the road. Eventually you have to pick up those proverbial cans.
What we, the fans, are seeing now is a team in desperation mode. The best possible escape from their current condition would be to find a few players who show promise for the future. Maybe Witherspoon will be a quality starter for the team in future years. Could Leglue be an answer for the guard position when Trai Turner exits after 2021? Is Buddy Johnson a player who could be along side Bush in the middle of the defense, assuming Bush bounces back?
Sadly, the change we all desire won’t be happening in 2021. What we see, is what we will get. The only real hope will be if some of the players mentioned above, like Witherspoon, Adams and Leglue, can stick at their positions and be difference makers. In the offseason, much larger changes can take place, but for now, all we have is hope in what the Steelers have right now.