After announcing on Monday that nose tackle Steve McLendon would miss the upcoming Thursday night game against the Baltimore Ravens with an ankle injury suffered Sunday in the win over the Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was asked to comment on the play of his replacement, Al Woods, and whether or not he will get the start in McLendon’s absence.
“I thought he was a positive contributor to our efforts,” said Tomlin of Woods play on Sunday. “I think maybe he had a couple of sacks, but Al has played a contributing role to our efforts largely throughout the season. He’s played in just about every football game getting 10-12 snaps per game.
“Hopefully he’ll be ready for the extended action that comes with having an opportunity to step up. In terms of making the decision of who will play for Steve, but that hasn’t been done yet. We haven’t come together yet. Obviously, he’s an obvious potential selection, but we’ll still have the discussion in an effort to put our very best people on the grass.”
So who else would be in the running to start in McLendon’s place?
“It could be a myriad of people,” said Tomlin. “I think we got decent position flexibility with those guys. We’ve got the possibility of getting Brett Keisel back, maybe Ziggy Hood is inside capable. We’ll have the necessary discussions and look at all possibilities in an effort to put our best combination of people on the field.”
Woods played 32 snaps on Sunday in the win and there is no reason to think that he won’t start Thursday night against the Ravens in the Steelers base package. While Tomlin throws the name of Ziggy Hood out there, I just can’t see him be a legitimate candidate to play in the middle unless there’s an emergency.
If Keisel is indeed able to suit up this week, you would have to think he’ll have his snaps closely monitored and that means Hood would play quite a few snaps at one of the two end spots with Cameron Heyward manning the opposite side.
With cornerback Curtis Brown now out for the season with a torn ACL, the Steelers may decide to promote defensive end Brian Arnfelt from the practice squad in order to have an extra defensive linemen body for Thursday night, especially considering that Keisel is candidate to have more issues with his foot moving forward.
More than anything else, the Ravens really don’t know for sure who will be starting at nose tackle Thursday night. They should and will prepare for Woods, however.