By Christina Rivers
The Pittsburgh Steelers were able to briefly celebrate a 19-6 win over the New York Jets on Sunday only to get right back to work on personnel issues. After acquiring Levi Brown to bolster the left side of their offensive line, Brown seriously re-injured a triceps during warm-ups against the Jets. That same injury kept Brown out in 2012 with the Arizona Cardinals, and the Steelers were forced to move him to the injured/waived list. Tight end/Fullback David Johnson (wrist) also moved to that list while the Steelers signed free agent tight end Richard Gordon and moved cornerback Isaiah Green up from the practice squad. Leading up to a rivalry game in Week 7 against the Baltimore Ravens, the Steelers are matching up the most durable players ahead of what will be a difficult stand.
Many fans are questioning if the acquisition of Brown was worth it. The Cardinals negotiated Brown’s pay to veteran minimum, $715,000, just before the Steelers acquired him, which did not affect the salary cap. There is no guaranteed money attached to the Brown deal, so Pittsburgh should not be hurt badly in the deal. They will only lose a conditional draft pick due to Arizona paying most of what is owed to Brown in 2013.
Gordon was drafted by the Oakland Raiders in the sixth round (181st overall) in the 2011 NFL Draft out of the University of Miami. At six feet four inches , 265 pounds, Gordon played 27 games for Oakland and had three career receptions and one touchdown. Wearing 44, the Steelers could use Gordon either at tight end or to replace Johnson at fullback. Gordon has special teams skills as well, making 17 tackles and one fumble recovery, and the ability to be a run blocker. Pittsburgh is still looking for Matt Spaeth (foot) to return to the team, and Gordon would be a viable option until that occurs.
Green’s promotion comes as little surprise after spending time on the Steelers 53-man roster and the practice squad. While Green is a bit undersized for the cornerback position at five feet 10 inches, 180 pounds, he will most likely see time on special teams. The Steelers decision to keep an extra cornerback shows that they may have found the offensive line that they want at this time.
When asked about the decision to add Green and Gordon instead of an offensive lineman, head coach Mike Tomlin said, “We just decided to strengthen ourselves in the very best way possible. Richard Gordon was a tight end that had similar attributes as (Johnson) in that he’s a strong run performer and he’s healthy and ready to go … Green is a useful corner/special teams player that we’re very familiar with.” Tomlin continued, “The emphasis was about helping ourselves this weekend … We’re adding someone that we feel like can help our efforts from a global standpoint, not necessarily from a positional standpoint.”
Linebacker Sean Spence is slated to return to the practice field Wednesday after suffering a season-ending knee injury in the 2012 preseason. Spence was placed on the reserve/physically unable to perform list at the beginning of 2013. Permitted to practice for three weeks before any decisions are made regarding activating him or not, Spence will be evaluated this week in practice. “We are going to look at (Spence) participating in some form or fashion this week,” said Tomlin, “probably in a limited capacity, individual drills and so forth.” The goal is to get Spence onto the field before making any long-term decisions.
Receiver Markus Wheaton, who had surgery on an injured finger is still ruled out for Sunday’s game at Heinz Field.
Regarding the outside zone on rushing plays, coach Tomlin admitted that offensive line turnover and personnel have caused the team to take a step away from it. “Outside zone is something we spent a lot of time working on in the offseason, but we had Maurkice Pouncey …We’re going to lean to the strength of the men that we work with.”
In some lighter news for Steelers fans, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger announced that he and his wife, Ashley, are expecting their second child.
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