Injury replacements fared well

After further review, SCI.net publisher Jim Wexell believes the Steelers' injury replacements fared well enough to offer hope.

Injuries ripped three holes into the Steelers' starting lineup Sunday in Miami, but the replacements were part of the reason the Steelers walked away with a 1-point win.

That's the good news on a day in which it appears the Steelers have lost Aaron Smith to yet another arm injury.

Good news?

Well, Ziggy Hood, Jonathan Scott and the combination of Larry Foote and Jason Worilds played well in place of Smith, Flozell Adams, and LaMarr Woodley.

Let's start the breakdown with the first injury. With 11:20 left in the second quarter, Maurkice Pouncey blocked down and knocked a Dolphin into the back foot of Adams, the right tackle who then left with a sprained ankle.

For Pouncey, it gave him the hat trick. The rookie center has now thrown or blocked men into Max Starks, Trai Essex and now Adams to cause them injury.

Adams, the heavy-handed run-blocker deluxe, was replaced by Jonathan Scott, and on Scott's first snap, because of indecision, he was beaten both inside and outside and both men hit quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. But Roethlisberger got the pass away for a 21-yard touchdown to Hines Ward, and the Steelers led for the first time in the game, 10-6.

Woodley was the next starter to leave. The left outside linebacker left the field before a second-and-1 play with 8:09 left in the half. He missed a play, returned for another – in which he merely dropped into coverage – and then left for the duration. He was replaced initially by Foote, but on passing downs the Steelers used Worilds, the second-round draft pick.

On his first play, Worilds belted Miami QB Chad Henne to force an incompletion.

Worilds went on to play 22 snaps. In addition to the QB hit, he pressured Henne on back-to-back plays early in the third quarter to help force a punt. Worilds also hit Henne's arm to force a fumble on the last Dolphins play of the game. It was a play that was erroneously ruled a pass, but the ruling didn't matter on fourth down.

Clearly, Worilds needs to add another move to go with his upfield-sprint/loop-back. He's also unlikely to offer much against the run, but in those 22 snaps he wasn't tested.

Lawrence Timmons, who slid over into Woodley's spot upon Foote's insertion, was knocked off the ball on the only run his way in the fourth quarter. But Hood, the LDE, stacked the point and James Farrior tackled Ricky Williams after a 2-yard gain.

And that brings us to Hood, who went in for Smith after the giant LDE was injured.

Now, the exact point of Smith's injury is unclear. As he did in the Detroit game last season, Smith may have played with the arm injury. He started off strong in Miami by stacking the point on an early third-and-2 run for no gain by Williams. It caused Miami to kick a 23-yard field goal for a 6-0 lead.

On the next series, Smith stuffed a second-and-10 draw by Brown for a loss of 2. And on the next Miami series, Smith blasted Henne, who was able to complete the pass to Brandon Marshall.

In the second quarter, Smith began a stretch of rotations that continued into the third quarter, when he, in three plays, never did extend his left arm. Smith left the field for good after tackling Lousaka Polite after a 2-yard gain on third-and-1.

Hood replaced Smith and played perhaps his most technically sound game yet. Steelers defensive ends rarely make plays on the ball, but like Smith, Hood extended his arms and stuffed the run in the few strong-side Dolphins attempts. In fact, on a critical third-and-1 play early in the fourth quarter, at the 50, Hood stacked the point and allowed Foote to tackle Ronnie Brown from behind for no gain.

Hood also showed a burst when he revived his college spin move on a pass-rushing down on the Dolphins' final possession. He came close on the third-down play as Henne dumped it for a 2-yard completion.

Scott, meanwhile, played well at right tackle after wobbling early. He was beat in pass protection only once more, and even then

Roethlisberger completed a 24-yard pass to Ward. And on the key Steelers play of the game, on 3rd-and-5 from the Miami 43, Scott stoned Miami's best pass rusher, Cameron Wake, in a one-on-one matchup. It allowed Roethlisberger time to check down to Mewelde Moore for 29 yards and ultimately the game-winning points.

So, it became clear Sunday that the Steelers have championship-caliber depth. And that the best of those fill-ins, Ziggy Hood, replaced the greatest of the losses, Aaron Smith. But that's about as optimistic as anyone can be.


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