If you wondered why the improving and productive Cameron Heyward saw his snap count drop to a season low against the Minnesota Vikings, you weren't alone.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin also wondered why Heyward played only 19 snaps against the Vikings, so Tomlin didn't just fine-tune the three-man rotation, he named Heyward the starter at left defensive end in place of Ziggy Hood.
"I think he's been really solid," said Tomlin. "I'm not taking anything away from Ziggy. Both guys will continue to play. We just want Cam to play more than he's been playing, and in order to ensure that we're going to put him in the starting lineup."
According to Pro Football Focus, Heyward has participated in 115 snaps and Hood in 187. According to the Steelers'
statistics, Heyward has 9 QB pressures to Hood's 3. Heyward has also batted down 2 passes to tie for first on the team in
passes defensed along with four others. Hood has out-tackled Heyward by 16-6.
Kelvin Beachum will start at left tackle Sunday in New York for the game against the Jets -- unless newly acquired Levi Brown wows the staff this week with his understanding of the offense and his ability, or if left guard Ramon Foster can't return from his strained left pectoral muscle.
Foster practiced on a limited basis Monday, and all but guaranteed he would play Sunday, but Tomlin said that "What he's capable of doing in pads (late in the practice week) is going to be critical."
If Foster can't play, Beachum would have to play left guard. And if neither Foster nor Brown can play, Beachum would play left tackle and Guy Whimper would play left guard.
The only injured player Tomlin ruled out is rookie WR Markus Wheaton with a broken pinkie finger.
WHAT ABOUT ADAMS?
Tomlin was asked if he "still sees something" in Mike Adams, the demoted second-year left tackle who might still be the
best run-blocker on the roster.
"Absolutely I do," Tomlin said. "The important thing is not what's happened to him at this point, it's how he responds and
moves forward. It's going to be an opportunity to define him and his career. ... Guys like Ike Taylor have gone through
moments like that. There are plenty of examples to draw from. But forget about the examples. It's time for Mike to roll
his sleeves up and go about working to find more consistency in his movement and technique so he can be the player
that we know, and he knows, he's capable of being."
Tomlin was asked if perhaps he should've given Adams more help against Jared Allen in the last game.
"Yeah, under the circumstances, sure," Tomlin said. "But (I) really didn't anticipate him playing in the manner he did. I
think it was a surprise to him, and us."
X's AND O's
Tomlin said he's been close "the last several years" to Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith, of nearby West Virginia University, and that Smith's "pro day was as impressive as any I've seen, from a quarterbacking standpoint." ... On rookie
inside linebacker Vince Williams, Tomlin said "arrow pointed up, in terms of his performance and the intangible things
he's brought to the position." ... On new punter Zoltan Mesko averaging 41.9 yards per punt (and only 33.7 the last two
games), Tomlin said, "He's done a nice job with his placement. ... We would like him to stretch the field a little bit more."