Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and his bosses did not wait long to back up the coach's threat to make changes in the lineup, trading Wednesday for offensive tackle Levi Brown.
How many more shoes can drop?
Tomlin made promises and threats of personnel changes in the past without following through, most notably late in the 2009 season as it unraveled. He first promised that year to "unleash hell in December," and the Steelers promptly lost their first two games in that month to the lowly Oakland Raiders and Cleveland Browns.
Before they played at Cleveland Dec. 10, 2009, Tomlin said this:
"We can't stay status quo in terms of how we're approaching this and expect the pattern of behavior or outcome to change. That's unrealistic. That's hoping. This is not a hope business."
He made only one small change, to his nickel corner, for the game against the Browns, who then upset the Steelers, 13-6.
But this time, Tomlin backed up the threats he made after their fourth consecutive loss Sunday. Whether Levi Brown starts or not when the Steelers resume play Oct. 13 at the New York Jets, the trade was a bold move that underlined the coach's message three days earlier on another continent.
Someone other than Mike Adams will start the fifth game at left tackle, be that Brown or Kelvin Beachum.
Tomlin, however, will be limited in making other changes, and cornerback Ike Taylor hopes they become unnecessary. He knows what it's like.
Taylor moved into the starting lineup in 2005 as the Steelers marched to their first Super Bowl victory in 26 years. But, when their 2006 Super Bowl hangover season got off to a 2-6 start, coach Bill Cowher began looking to make changes too. He benched Taylor for five games in a row, using him only in nickel and dime defenses.
• Game: Steelers vs. New York Jets.
• Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.
• When: 1 p.m. Oct. 13.
• TV: KDKA.
"I wouldn't wish that on anybody," Taylor said.
Cowher told his cornerback he made the move because of "inconsistency and all that."
"I said, 'OK, you're the head man, I respect your decision, but what you will see out of me is me coming to practice and working hard every day,' " Taylor said this week.
Cowher returned Taylor to the starting lineup for the final game of a season that ended 8-8.
"It's a hard feeling," said Taylor, who has started 123 games and is in his 11th season with the Steelers. "You feel like you worked to get to that point. I guess it would feel like somebody breaking into your house."
Taylor would not say whether he thought Cowher made him a scapegoat for the reigning Super Bowl champions' failures. Nor would he speculate what changes Tomlin could make on a team off to an historically bad start, their worst in 45 years.
"That's a decision I don't want to make. I'll leave it up to Coach T to make those decisions."
Realistically, there aren't many changes Tomlin can make. He found a new tackle, but most teams won't be willing to give up good players in a trade, and rarely are there good players unemployed this time of year.
The Steelers were fortunate to find an accomplished starting center in Fernando Velasco one day after Maurkice Pouncey sustained a season-ending knee injury in the opener.
That was rare, getting a player outside the team, plugging him in and starting him the next game. They did that with Max Starks in 2011, but Starks had been with them for years before that season.
Here is what Tomlin said Sunday:
"We are going to focus on getting better. That's what's going to change the outcome of these football games. Those that don't aren't going to be a part of us. I have great patience. We'll continue to work and get better as long as I see belief and effort and continued improvement in detail, because that's what's going to change the outcome of these games. Those that don't, they won't be a part of it, whoever it may be. It's just that simple."
Yet, it's really not simple at all. It's not like the Pirates, where they can call up a pitcher from the minors. The Steelers have an eight-man practice squad, and most of those players are undrafted rookies and first-year pros who can be signed by any of the NFL's 32 teams at any time.
Other teams have such practice squads as well.
The only thing left is to shuffle the lineup with backups, and there are not many appetizing possibilities there, either. Consider a handful:
• He could use rookie outside linebacker Jarvis Jones more often. Jones played 35 snaps vs. the Vikings to 17 for Jason Worilds but, according to analysts at Pro Football Focus, Worilds had a slightly better game. Neither has a sack.
• He might consider starting rookie wide receiver Markus Wheaton, but he had surgery on a little finger this week and it's uncertain when he'll return to play.
• He could start someone else at left cornerback instead of Cortez Allen, such as William Gay.
• He can have someone other than Felix Jones return kickoffs.
• He could switch punters because Zoltan Mesko has been a disappointment.
• Vince Williams did not have a good game at inside linebacker Sunday. He can go back to Kion Wilson or re-sign Stevenson Sylvester.
• Cameron Heyward has been among their best defensive players, and he is playing part-time. He had 18 snaps Sunday compared to 38 for Ziggy Hood. Tomlin could flip-flop them, start Heyward and bring Hood into the sub-packages.
• The boldest move would be to start rookie safety Shamarko Thomas ahead of one of the two veterans, Ryan Clark or Troy Polamalu.
That's pretty much it -- not many choices for the coach when it comes to making personnel changes. The real change would be improvement in the players they have.
Ed Bouchette: email@example.com and Twitter @EdBouchette. First Published October 4, 2013 4:00 AM