By Christina Rivers
The Pittsburgh Steelers spent their bye week looking for answers. Former Arizona Cardinals offensive lineman Levi Brown was acquired in the hopes that he could add veteran depth to a struggling group, but likely will not start against the New York Jets on Sunday, October 13. Instead, Kelvin Beachum is expected to line up on the left side of the offensive line.
Several players spent time healing during the bye week while others prepared for a Jets team that is 3-2 after a narrow win over the Atlanta Falcons. The Steelers also made changes to their defense with the intent on keeping Geno Smith and company out of the end zone.
Looking forward to 12 games in the next 13 weeks may be a bit much to handle, so the Steelers will play game-to-game and prepare for their opponents one week at a time. Coach Mike Tomlin spent Monday and Tuesday evaluating changes that have been made on both sides of the Steelers front lines. Defensive end Cameron Heyward, a first-round draft pick in 2011, has played in a reserve position for most of his NFL career thus far. Heyward will get the start on Sunday, replacing Ziggy Hood who is in the final year of his five-year rookie contract. Left tackle Mike Adams who has struggled this season, will be replaced by Kelvin Beachum who may or may not rotate with Levi Brown. “Levi Brown is a veteran, battle-tested,” Tomlin said in his Tuesday press conference. “He’s still working to establish a role. His presence is needed and valued.”
On Monday, Brown said that he considers being with the Steelers a “fresh start.” His team and fans in Arizona didn’t consider him an asset, but Brown considers his move to the Steelers an opportunity to help. “I’m a veteran. They have a lot of young guys at the tackle position,” said Brown, “so I’m going to go out there and teach them what I’ve learned over the years – good things, bad things, what to expect.” Brown added that players need to fight through hard situations and “roll with it.”
When asked about his position on Heyward, coach Tomlin said, “He will play more and deservedly so. I think he’s been really solid … We just want Cam to play more than he’s been playing and to assure that we’re going to put him in the starting lineup.” Heyward is ranked second on the Steelers team with nine quarterback pressures, with Brett Keisel leading with 13. Heyward has defended two passes and added six tackles.
Rookie linebacker Vince Williams has been moved to the starting position in place of injured veteran Larry Foote. When asked about William’s performance, Tomlin said, “He’s been solid, not only in performance but in communication.” Tomlin pointed out that Williams is young but that the team needs him to keep his performance level high. Kion Wilson is still expected to get repetitions with the defense and Tomlin feels that Wilson has earned it.
Rookie receiver Markus Wheaton will not be available for play against the Jets due to surgery required to repair a fractured pinky finger. Guard Ramon Foster (pectoral injury) and Wilson (hamstring) will be evaluated at the end of the week for their availability. Defensive back Da’Mon Cromartie-Smith is suffering from a hip flexor injury and is expected to be re-evaluated before Sunday’s game as well.
Tomlin summed up the team’s outlook for the week by saying that the Steelers will continue to work on critical issues that have led to an 0-4 record thus far in the 2013 NFL Season. “Offensively, we are looking to continue to work to strike a balance,” said Tomlin. “As we get guys in defined roles in that area, guys like Le’Veon Bell and Heath Miller, we like the direction we are going there.” As for the defense, Tomlin said, “We have to minimize the big plays … We just need to get more solid in that area, minimize big plays and make people work to produce points against us.”
Regarding Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith, Tomlin said, “He is a very talented guy. He can make any throw on the field. I have seen that in person at his pro day.” Tomlin expects the Steelers to limit Smith’s mobility on the field and shut down running backs Bilal Powell and Mike Goodson, who is coming off of a suspension.
The Steelers will play with respect to the fact that the Jets can get into scoring territory quickly due to the leg of kicker Nick Folk who won the game for New York. “The focus is on us and our preparation, and ultimately our play,” said Tomlin. “I like the attitude, demeanor and approach to the work that the guys have taken. That’s part of the equation. Obviously, putting it together and producing victory is the most significant part of the equation.”
For more Steelers news and updates, visit Steelers Central.
Christina Rivers has covered the Pittsburgh Steelers and National Football League professionally as a reporter and photographer for over a decade. Rivers studied exercise physiology and sports psychology at Brigham Young University as a student-athlete. Christina is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. Her work can be found on