After an 0-4 start to the season and an off week to contemplate why the team is off to its worst start in 45 years, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said today he is making two changes to his starting lineup for this week's game against the New York Jets.
Tomlin is replacing Ziggy Hood at defensive end with Cameron Heyward. He also will replace left tackle Mike Adams with either Kelvin Beachum or newcomer Levi Brown, who was acquired in a trade with the Arizona Cardinals last week.
Heyward, a former first-round draft pick in 2011, has been a reserve since his rookie season. Hood, another former first-round pick in 2009, had been a full-time starter the past two seasons. Hood is in the final year of his five-year rookie contract.
Tomlin adjusting lineup in wake of Steelers' 0-4 start
At his news conference today, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin announced changes in the starting lineup. The PG's Ed Bouchette puts it all in context. (Video by Andrew Rush; 10/8/2013)
"[Heyward] will play more and deservedly so," Tomlin said this afternoon at his weekly news conference. "I think he's been really solid. Both guys will continue to play. 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."
Tomlin was not as clear about who will replace Adams at left tackle. Beachum, the team's top reserve on the line, has not yet received an opportunity to start this season, but he acquitted himself well last year as a rookie when he started the final five games at right tackle.
Brown is a former first-round pick who had fallen out of favor in Arizona. He arrived in town late last week and spent the weekend with coaches learning the playbook.
"Levi Brown is a veteran, battle-tested," Tomlin said. "He's still working to establish a role. His presence is needed and valued."
When asked about the future of Adams, the team's second-round pick last spring, Tomlin said he expects him to bounce back.
"Absolutely I do," Tomlin said. "The most important thing is not what happened to him. It's how he responds and moves forward. I think it will define his career. It's time for Mike to roll the sleeves up and go to work."
Tomlin also said rookie linebacker Vince Williams will continue to get the majority of the snaps as the replacement of the injured Larry Foote. Williams is now listed as the starter after being a co-starter with Kion Wilson for the past couple of weeks.
"He's been solid in performance and his communication," Tomlin said. "He's a young player who will grow with reps. Arrow pointed up in terms of his performance. He's gotten the majority of the snaps. We feel like he's earned that."
Tomlin said the only player ruled out for the Jets game is rookie receiver Markus Wheaton, who had surgery to repair a fractured bone in his right pinky finger during the off week.
Defensive back Damon Cromartie-Smith is questionable with a hip flexor injury. Guard Ramon Foster (pectoral injury) and Wilson (hamstring) will be evaluated later in the week. Both were partial participants in practice on Monday.
Ray Fittipaldo: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @rayfitt1. First Published October 7, 2013 8:48 PM