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The Steelers Are Too Old… Again?


I think everyone can remember the madness last year when Warren Sapp implied that the Pittsburgh Steelers were too old to be considered an elite team. The Steelers did a great job of proving Sapp wrong both with the teams\' overall on field performance and the way that the younger backups stepped up thru injuries. So just as the offseason passes us steadily by and we almost have that negative implication out of our minds, it pops back up. I was reading a power ranking on NFL.com and was maligned to find that they had the Steelers listed as the 13th ranked team. Not bad for a 12-4 team that has lost only a few players, has many up and comers and looks poised to address some key needs in this draft. I think this rank is bananas and while the dumb super-fan in me thinks the Steelers are #1, I could rationalize really anything in the top 6.

The explanation for ranking the team so low was due to the fact that the core of the team is getting older. Firstly I’d like to explain that at many positions on the field I’d rather have a player that is right around 30. As much as I love young guns because of their unknown potential, 30 is a good age. They’re not so old that they are dropping off physically yet, and have a wealth of experience. This experience is a profound tool. It can be as simple as knowing the tendencies of Joe Flacco, or as deep as knowing that for a specific blitz call to play inside tight coverage on a slant happy receiver. I like DBs, LBs and OL that have some experience. RB and WR are positions where youth is a commodity and the Steelers have it. Veteran leadership is still needed and the re-signing of Jerricho Cotchery provides that.

The easy place to start is the defense. Up front, Ziggy Hood was drafted only 3 years ago and Cameron Heyward was just a rookie last season. Brett Keisel is expected to be a big contributor at 10 years pro and Casey Hampton should return from injury and start at 11 years pro. Steve McLendon is a 2 year guy and a rookie will certainly be in the mix. At linebacker, Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley are entering their prime at 5 years pro. Larry Foote and James Harrison are nearing the end of their careers at 31 and 33 years old, while Stevenson Sylvester and Jason Worilds still have a chance to prove their value and are both only 2 year pros. At defensive back Ike Taylor is a 9 year guy, while Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu have 10 and 9 years of experience respectively. Keenan Lewis (when he signs his tender), Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown are all youngsters.

To analyze that list, about half the starters are over 30. Fortunately many of them are right around 30 and should have a good 4-6 years left, and only a few are nearing their end. Many of those positions have options for backups, especially considering this years’ draft. I think that the Steelers are getting very close to a difficult situation, but I don\'t think the outlook is grim yet. I can see Polamalu, Taylor and Keisel playing possibly another 4 seasons. Clark, Foote and Harrison are getting near the end of the road though. I can easily see them playing at least 2 more seasons, but it\'s important to begin drafting replacements now.

Offense is an easy story. While Ben Roethlisberger should have at least another 5 good years ahead of him, his biggest enemy is himself. His rugged style of play might lead to injuries no matter who\'s protecting him. His weapons are young and numerous. Mike Wallace and Rashard Mendenhall are question marks right now for different reasons but Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders and Isaac Redman are all young and have bright futures. Offensive line is a big question mark, but all of the answers so far are young. Marcus Gilbert had a pretty good rookie campaign and Maurkice Pouncey is a perennial Pro Bowler. There are a few stand-ins at guard that aren\'t long term solutions and Willie Colon, who is 29, can hold down tackle for a while if injury problems with him are over.

After analyzing the age of the Steelers I think that ranking them at 13 is an insult. I can understand a lower ranking citing possible offensive line inadequacies or a need for a development time so as a new offensive coordinator\'s system can take off. I can\'t take the fact that the Steelers are "too old". I believe they need to adapt to a new style of NFL that is pass driven and speed hungry, but they are in a position to do just that.

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About Dave Bryan

I am, I'm me. 40 something, retired and a life long Steelers fan.
  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NXON22FQSDCCSA2WHZIRTHQWTU Greig

    All you need to know about the accuracy of the NFL.com power rankings:

    Cowboys 12
    Steelers 13

    Remind me again, how many playoff wins have the Cowboys had over the past 15 years?

  • John B.

    i dont care about power rankings. i care about season rankings.

  • Gdh75

    Average age of starters on offense is roughly 26 (Redman starter at RB to start season and including Sanders as #3 WR – 2 restricted FA at OG as starters for now) Ben is oldest starter

    Average age of starters on defense is 30.3 (that is assuming Keisel starter at one DE, Hampton at NT, and Keenan Lewis at CB) Put reasonable replacements of McClendon at NT, Heyward as heir apparent at DE for Keisel and Sylvester in for for Foote at ILB then it goes down to 27.9

  • Dan

    ^ Amen, nuff said

  • antoine harrison

    Wow thats a damn shame that they dont show us any kind of love at all. I can remember back to the year when we won the super bowl against the Cardinals and during that year how each week it seemed like we was getting more and more respect across the league and from the media. I believe that the players pay attention to this stuff but not a lot of attention and they use this stuff and fuel for there fire. How in the world are the Cryboys ahead of us and the Bears, Broncos and Lions. This list is a freaking joke.

  • Broderick Wallace

    As a Steelers fan you only need to ask yourself one question. Who has the most Lombardi trophies? Enough said. Power rankings can kiss our glorious trophy case.

  • Bleebo77

    Frankly, I’d rather be underestimated going into the season than the reverse. It feels like the Steelers have done better coming off of disappointment the season before. Better #13 in the eyes of pundits than #3!

  • Eric87

    rankings have no importance unless they are dealing with division titles and playoff seeding.

  • BossSteelerChick

    Keenan Lewis has already signed.

  • Kad964

    They haven’t pick the Steelers to win anything in the last 10 years. Why should this be any different? Every season someone else is suppose to win the North and the Steelers pull it out

  • Jprankster2005

    Was just looking up some things and we got 4 WR’s in the top 90 best in NFL with Cotchery at 90 Sanders at 34, Brown at 19 and Wallace at 4 only behind Welker 3, Fitzgerald 2, Calvin Johnson 1……. Maybe that’s why he wants all this money lol…. They named a few trade destinations also with a few being Buffalo, Chiefs, Rams and Bengals……

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5XBK7SSKCWKZ7F6RTJCVHABVI4 Steve Duncan

    No way is Wallace better than Andre Johnson. It looks that way because AJ was hurt last year, but no.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5XBK7SSKCWKZ7F6RTJCVHABVI4 Steve Duncan

    I don’t want them picking us high, we play better with a chip on our shoulders.

  • Jprankster2005

    I agree and they had him ranked out of top 20 so they had Brown and Wallace better then him…… I would love to have AJ on our team…… wish we could trade him for Wallace but I’m sure he get’s a hefty paycheck……

  • Jprankster2005

    No he hasn’t

  • Nolrog

    Who cares about the pre-draft rankings. We’ll show them on the field.

    Many people are looking at the losses and not realzing that many of these guys weren’t contributing anyway (injured or fallen on the depth chart.)

    I don’t believe that Hampton will be back this year. Certainly not for the start, and I have doubts well see him at all (ACL is a 10 month recover.)

  • Nolrog

    He will though. Hopefully they work out a 3-4 year deal as well.

  • PoKey21

    I dont like the explanation you gave. 30 is old an on the way out, especially in the trenches. Yes, a QB maybe in his prime at 30 but a DE or OL isnt. I think the steelers are getting old, but have a wealth of young talent to fill in ideally. Which you were dead on in your assessment of Mclendon, Timmons, and Woodley. Timmons and Woodley are in their “prime” because the premier age in . the NFL is 27 or 28. At 30 they can still play but they loose a step. But in any locker room a team needs the right balance of young guys, players in their prime, and veterans. I personally think the Steelers have better balance than most. And looking at our safeties I wouldnt be surprised if the steelers went after a Safety early in the draft. Maybe even in the 1st round next year.

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