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The Steelers, like most teams in the National Football League, have suffered a number of debilitating injuries to key players in the 2015 and have embraced the phrase, "Next Man Up", and have done rather well by that slogan.
When Maurkice Pouncey was lost for eight-to-infinite weeks at center in an August exhibition contest versus Green Bay, Cody Wallace was next up and has performed admirably, given the circumstances. But it was no way near the Pro Bowl level of Pouncey.
When Ryan Shazier's kamikaze-style of play renders him sidelined in a hoodie every so often, the duo of Vince Williams and Sean Spence have proven to be the best "next men up" at inside linebacker in the league. However, they are not the laser-fast freak that wears No. 50.
Darrius Heyward-Bey was a solid "NMU" (Next Man Up) when Martavis Bryant's celebration of 4/20 resulted in a four-game ban. Alejandro Villanueva's "NMU" stint for Kelvin Beachum is still in progress and going well. Steve McLendon did a nice job moving over to spell Stephon Tuitt during his healing from injury and even the combo of Landry Jones/Mike Vick salvaged a couple of games when Big Ben was felled in St. Louis.
The best performance by a "NMU" came from DeAngelo Williams. Williams was brought in as a temporary replacement when Le'Veon Bell served his two-game suspension at the beginning of the season and to spell Bell throughout the season. But he was also brought in as a backup plan in case something happened to Bell. On November 1st, when disaster struck ending Bell's season, the only consolation was the ability and reliability of Williams. This time the backup plan worked out well, but Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin failed to get a backup plan for their backup plan.
When DeAngelo Williams took over as RB1 on the Pittsburgh depth chart, the Steelers personnel department should have felt behooved to take out an insurance plan on Williams in the form of an experienced backup. For instance, Pierre Thomas became available shortly after that and would have been a perfect fit for the Steelers, but Washington snapped him up and he has performed well. In fairness, the Steelers made a minor move by bringing in Isaiah Pead, only to release him weeks later.
A few weeks back, BTSC published my commentary that was titled, "Don't Run The Wheels Off Of D-Will". The point of the piece was to express the need to season Fitzgerald Toussaint and Jordan Todman, in case of an injury to Williams to avoid the debacle that was the inexperience of Josh Harris and Dri Archer in the playoffs last year when Bell went down.
Well, it's deja vu all over again as the Steelers lost their starting runner in Week 17 with virtually no experienced rushers to grab the baton. In fairness, there were not too many opportunities to spell Williams during a playoff run, but there seemed to be no concerted effort to bring somebody in. "NMU" takes time to flourish and the playoffs are the worst time for an inexperienced runner to see their first extended action,
Now I'm not saying that Toussaint and Todman are definitely going to fall flat, I hope that they surprise and succeed, stranger things have happened. But everything gets amped up in the postseason and it's tougher to emerge. It takes time and the Steelers can't afford to experiment.
The Steelers did not run the wheels off of D-Will, but they ignored recent history and made the same mistake twice by not insuring their insurance policy. I'm just hoping it doesn't end their season prematurely...again.