You get the sense that Mike Tomlin believes he’s in trouble. In a lot of cases, a head coach responds to a warmer seat by yanking his veteran QB for the young guy holding a clipboard behind him. However, the quarterback isn’t the problem in Pittsburgh, and even if it were, it’s Landry Jones sitting down the depth chart. So that’s not going to help.
Instead, it’s looking like young guys will be filling in at other positions. Tomlin suggested that Martavis Bryant could make his professional debut on Monday against the Texans, ideally to help in the red zone. Steve McLendon has already been ruled out this weekend, which opens the doors for Stephon Tuitt and Daniel “Mount” McCullers to see more playing time. It would also be McCullers’ first professional game.
Times are getting desperate for the Steelers. Martavis Bryant has all kinds of talent, and that much is evident. But he showed us in camp and in preseason that he probably just isn’t ready for the big show yet. Most of the plays he made in the preseason were drawing long pass interference penalties just because he’s big and fast. His hands were… less impressive, to start his young career. Getting a long pass interference call is great for moving the ball downfield, but it doesn’t help you in the red zone as much, and that’s where the Steelers need help.
(Note: McCullers is currently assigned #62, as opposed to the #74 he had in training camp)
As for the rookies on the defensive line, Tuitt has already been in games, although he inexplicably hasn’t beaten out Cam Thomas (who is terrible) for a starting spot yet. McLendon’s injury and Brett Keisel’s age should open up an opportunity for him going forward.
Daniel McCullers is the real sign of desperation. Remember, this team came crawling back to the ghost of Brett Keisel in camp, ostensibly because they didn’t have any confidence in the linemen already on the roster, even despite investing two draft picks in the position this year. The way in which one of those picks came to be Daniel McCullers is already a red flag.
Imagine this: You have a nose tackle, 6’7″, about 350 lbs with apparently no body fat. A lot of teams run 3-4 defenses these days, and a player with those measurables would surely be of value to any of them. So how did McCullers fall to the sixth round?
To put it simply, he doesn’t have any technique. He hasn’t needed any up to this point because he was just so massive. That doesn’t work in the NFL, and McCullers, like Bryant, is a project. He has all the tools to become a dominant nose tackle (that is, size), but he will need a lot of work to realize that potential. As such, playing him on Monday night, in prime time for the whole world to see, is a desperate move.
Maybe these guys will find a way to click and can help the team from the outset. The Steelers are certainly wagering on it, because Lance Moore and Cam Thomas have all but proven they aren’t going to save this team. It’s better to wager on an unknown with potential for success than a known quantity that won’t help you.
It’s why Jason Worilds was pressed into service last year. It’s why Markus Wheaton is the #2 receiver this year. Time will tell if these gambles will have truly paid off, but there will undoubtedly be more cards on the table when the Steelers close out Week 7.