Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin is navigating uncharted territory for himself sitting at 3-7 through the first 10 games of the season. The best he can hope for at this point is 10-7, which may not even be good enough to reach the postseason, but damnit, he’s gonna try.
Will he be successful? I wouldn’t bet on it. But he and his coaching staff are at least exploring various avenues seeking ways to get better and improve their chances of winning—even if they don’t always end up taking them.
Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin was asked yesterday about making changes to his lineup, particularly at cornerback, and whether they would consider moving Cameron Sutton into the slot on a full-time basis, even putting James Pierre in outside.
“We’ll look at all the answers that could help us”, he responded, via the team’s website. “I know when we had a full complement of DBs, that was kind of our rotation on third down. As guys have been injured, we’ve been kind of trying to stick to a kind of structure”.
Elsewhere during the media session, he was open about his group’s shortcomings, particularly with respect to 50-50 balls. He said that they have been losing the majority of them this year and that that falls on both the players and the staff. It’s why they’ve allowed seven individual 100-yard receivers already this season.
Pittsburgh has used a variety of combinations on defense this year, including in the secondary, although health has limited their options. Ahkello Witherspoon, who began the year in the starting lineup, has missed most of the season due to hamstring injuries (which limits how much they can take Sutton off of his outside post and move him inside).
The Steelers are not an organization that has a tendency to make changes for the sake of making changes—Tomlin recently referred to that as feeding the mob—but they understand the reality of where they are. In other words, they can’t afford not to be open to it.
“When you play the way we did and you give up as many plays as we did, you’re gonna look at everything to see what you can improve”, Austin conceded. “And if that means moving somebody, we may move somebody. Cam gets work in there, but I’m not sure if that’s the right move right now”.
Having Witherspoon sidelined and William Jackson III on the shelf doesn’t help matters. Arthur Maulet has otherwise been their primary number three. Pierre is an option to play outside, and they could use Tre Norwood more in the slot. Of course, there are ways to get Damontae Kazee involved as well.