The winds of change are not gentle breezes. They range from tornadoes to hurricanes, and the Pittsburgh Steelers have found themselves caught in the eye of the storm with their pants down.
A whirlwind of moves have been made over the past two weeks, as they continue trying to build winning from winless. Levi Brown, Stevenson Sylvester and Will Allen have joined the team; Isaiah Green, Kion Wilson and Da'Mon Cromartie-Smith are out. The Steelers also may or may not have lost or gained one or more draft picks in the process.
It wasn't surprising to see familiar faces involved. Sylvester and Allen will be able to contribute immediately both in the defensive scheme of coordinator Dick LeBeau, but also on special teams which is the key reason both men got second tours of duty; much like Jonathan Dwyer was able to step into Todd Haley's offense when LaRod Stephens-Howling went down, despite Dwyer being unemployed in Week 1.
New players would need at least a week to learn enough of the playbook to contribute minimally. Felix Jones had the benefit of preseason football to give him weeks to prepare before the regular season began. He would not have been able to join the team and play the following day mid-season. Brown has played in Haley's offense before and was active when acquired, he may not start Week 6 but should be able to play if needed on familiarity with the scheme.
All three were good transactions by the Steelers for the now and the later, but they do beg a few questions about the rest of the roster.
Sylvester replaces the man, Wilson, who beat him out for a job in training camp, although Wilson has rejoined the team's practice squad. Interestingly enough, the team cut OLB project Alan Baxter to make room for him. Baxter was productive during preseason, but not enough to displace anyone in front of him, except for Adrian Robinson perhaps. Obviously, if no other team signs him first, the Steelers could bring Baxter back to the scout team later; but for now, they would rather have Wilson than Baxter - which has to be somewhat encouraging for a player who became the starter when Larry Foote was lost in Week 1, and was cut after Week 4.
Lost in the fact the team chose Sylvester over Wilson, is the fact the team also chose Terence Garvin over Wilson. Garvin has been visible on special teams, enough so to maintain his roster spot. Sylvester's familiarity with the team will allow him to hurdle Garvin in the defense, but also chip in on STs as well. Maybe the team will eventually release Garvin when Sean Spence returns, but at this point, keeping both of them is not improbable. If the team does cut Garvin for Spence, it will be interesting to see who gets the scout team spot between Garvin and Wilson.
The Steelers cut Green to make room for Brown, although Green had yet to see the field anyway. Both Green and Antwon Blake have been inactive since joining the team. Blake was signed to be a special teams player, and Green was an extra defensive back. Both have sat inactive because of Cromartie-Smith, who was getting the game hat. Will Allen will now get the hat, meaning Blake will remain inactive but now another player must now be deactivated on gamedays with Green now off the roster.
Another inactive last minute signing is G/C Cody Wallace. He replaced John Malecki as the team's backup to Maurkice Pouncey and both guards Ramon Foster and David DeCastro; but when Pouncey was lost for the year, the team brought in Fernando Velasco to start. Kelvin Beachum remains the gameday emergency backup center, leaving Wallace in street clothes on the sideline. With the addition of Brown, the Steelers now have nine offensive linemen. Guy Whimper becomes the leading candidate to take Green's inactive status with the addition of Brown, unless the team deactivates Mike Adams as part of his demotion. Marcus Gilbert remains the starter at right tackle for the moment.
If the inactive player doesn't come from the offensive line, it's hard to say which position group it would come from.
The running back corps already went without Isaac Redman in Week 4, and all signs indicate he will remain inactive in Week 6. Le'Veon Bell has claimed the starting job, with Felix Jones and Dwyer filling out the depth chart.
The receiving corps just lost Markus Wheaton for a week or two after he underwent surgery on a broken finger. Derek Moye will take his game hat as the team's fourth receiver, behind Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery.
The team still has four tight ends. Heath Miller is back on the job, David Johnson has been an improved version of his former self and David Paulson still looks like a seventh round draft pick in his second season. Michael Palmer is the fourth, and is most likely holding a seat for Matt Spaeth, who is designated to return from injured reserve.
The Steelers only have eight linebackers - four inside (Lawrence Timmons, Vince Williams, Sylvester and Garvin) and four outside (LaMarr Woodley, Jarvis Jones, Jason Worilds and Chris Carter. Special teams cannot afford for any of them to be deactivated.
Same can be said for the defensive backs. Outside of Blake, the team has four corners (Ike Taylor, Cortez Allen, William Gay and Curtis Brown) and five safeties (Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark, Robert Golden, Shamarko Thomas and Allen) - and they all play.
The defensive line has been playing around with starting configurations and snap ratios, all without Loni Fangupo who has remained inactive all year. With three starters (Cameron Heyward, Steve McLendon and Brett Keisel) and two backups (Ziggy Hood and Al Woods), all game hats should remain in place in this department.
The Steelers will come out of the bye week as if they were embarking on a twelve game season with a brand new roster.
More from Behind the Steel Curtain:
- Steelers vs. Jets: Everything you need to know
- The Standard is The Standard Show, Steelers vs. Jets Week 6
- Reactions to news of Spence's return
- Sean Spence will return to practice next week
- Steelers add Kion Wilson to practice squad, release Alan Baxter
- Polamalu: 'If attitude won games, we'd go out and get cheerleaders'
- LeBeau is 15-2 against rookie quarterbacks, like Jets Geno Smith
- Steelers vs. Jets Preview: Gut check time at MetLife Stadium