DL Rotation Determined By Quality Of Play, Says Tomlin

How much will the Pittsburgh Steelers rotate now that they’re without Stephon Tuitt for the year? Mike Tomlin is leaving that up to how well the “next men up” play.

During his Tuesday press conference, Tomlin was asked if the team planned on keeping the rotation the same for the remainder of the year.

“It depends, quite frankly, on their quality of play,” he responded. “You know, if the guys are playing really solidly, we’ll play them. If they’re not, then we’ll play them less. We have a plan but we’ll remain light on our feet. We won’t be married to that plan because we want to produce a winning effort and we gotta acknowledge what we’re looking at.”

What the Steelers are looking at is a dropoff in talent from Cam Heyward and Javon Hargrave to Tyson Alualu and then an even bigger fall to the rest of the group, now consisting of Daniel McCullers, Isaiah Buggs, and LT Walton.

For Monday night against Miami, Alualu will work in Tuitt’s place as the LDE in their base 3-4. He and Hargrave will rotate in at nickel, though Hargrave is more likely to soak up more snaps. McCullers could see a small uptick in snaps at nose tackle especially if, as expected, Hargrave sees some base end snaps as a way to mix and match.

Walton is more likely to get a gameday helmet in the short-term as the “utility” role Alualu previously held. He can play up and down the line, something a rookie like Buggs currently can’t. But his playing time hopefully is limited as much as possible. Walton offers nothing as a pass rusher and was about to wade into the XFL draft pool before the Steelers came calling.

Despite the obvious issues, Tomlin praised Alualu’s performance last week.

“Love the contributions of Tyson Alualu last week, and I think his reps grew during the course of the game because of it, for example.”

His performance versus the Chargers was arguably his best to date in a Steelers’ uniform, finishing with three tackles and a pass deflection that led to Devin Bush’s interception. They’ll have to count on him offering repeat performances while Keith Butler will need to get creative in how he schemes pressure the rest of the way.

That mission will begin with a Miami Dolphins team that yes, while winless, have been playing better of late. They tend to start drives with six offensive linemen, attempting to establish a downhill run game that will test the physicality and conditioning of the Steelers’ front. We’ll have a full scouting report on them Monday morning.

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