The change the vast majority of Pittsburgh Steelers fans wanted has happened, and that was the insertion of Kenny Pickett into the starting lineup as QB1. But is that change enough? Or are more changes on the horizon?
Obviously, those decisions fall on Mike Tomlin and his coaching staff, but there are some changes which are both realistic, and plausible, for the team’s upcoming Week 5 game vs. the Buffalo Bills.
Below are six changes which could happen this week, and, in my opinion, would help improve the team’s chances of victory:
Get Isaiahh Loudermilk a helmet
When the Steelers traded up in the 2021 NFL Draft to take Loudermilk out of Wisconsin, the fan base gave a collective, “WHO?!” response. However, Loudermilk’s play vs. the run has always been his strength. He isn’t the pass rusher of Chris Wormley, but the team could use more anchors along the defensive line this Sunday in Buffalo. Do I make Wormley inactive? Not necessarily. I think you could also have Tyson Alualu, who has struggled mightily, inactive to get Loudermilk a helmet on game day for the first time this season.
Would it be an earth-shattering move? No, but it could certainly help.
More DeMarvin Leal
Speaking of that defensive front, rookie DeMarvin Leal has earned more playing time throughout the first four games of the regular season. Leal, while a small sample size, has proven his worth and earned praise of Mike Tomlin in recent weeks. Leal’s increased role could equate to a decreased role for players nursing injuries, like Cam Heyward, while also providing a similar “spark” for the defensive front.
While Tomlin was praising Leal, he was very critical of Gunner Olszewski’s performance throughout the first four weeks. Most of the fan base is hoping to see rookie Calvin Austin III return to the team soon, more on that later, but Steven Sims would be the next-man-up for return duties. Sims is on the active roster, but has been inactive every game this week. He, like Loudermilk, getting a helmet wouldn’t just send a message, but be an upgrade on the current roster.
Calvin Austin III
Austin started the season on Injured Reserve (IR), this after injuring his foot during the Friday practice before the team’s first preseason game. The 21-day clock could start for him any day now, and when that happens he is eligible to be activated onto the active roster. Austin will have to show he is ready for NFL action in a practice setting, but he is an explosive player with huge upside. The question then becomes, how would the team carve out a roster spot for him? If Austin is the upgrade we all expect, the Steelers won’t have an issue finding room for him.
More George Pickens
Just like his fellow rookie Leal, Pickens has proven his worth. Coming off his first 100-yard receiving game, you have to wonder if increased snaps for Pickens is on the docket. Would it mean a decreased snap count for someone like Diontae Johnson and/or Chase Claypool? Not necessarily, but if it did, and Pickens continues to make plays, I don’t foresee many complaints from the fan base. Pickens is dynamic, and the Steelers can use all the playmakers they can find getting maximum reps going against the high-powered Bills Sunday.
Some might consider him the forgotten rookie, but if the Steelers are looking for finding a player who could come in and make an impact without making a roster move, Heyward could be their guy. So far this season Heyward has been relegated to special teams duty, but he has shown he can be a playmaker in a variety of roles. With Kenny Pickett now at the helm, the rapport the two developed in camp could be a reason to get him on the field more when on offense. Would the Steelers deploy three tight ends at times? Sure, why not. Would it mean a decreased role for Zach Gentry? If it means getting playmakers on the field, so be it. Heyward could be a guy to help the offense, and be an “ace in the hole” as it pertains to the team’s plans going into a hostile environment.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for Week 5 of the 2022 regular season.