By Jeremy Hritz
Across the world for many Pittsburgh Steelers fans, the sky is falling, and optimism for the 2013 season has all but dissipated and has been replaced by a pessimism that is forecasting a 6-10 season or worse. While the first week of free agency has not provided many reasons to celebrate with the departure of many big name starters, the approach of the organization should not come as a surprise, as it has always been the standard.
And for the last ten plus years, it has been effective.
Sure, Mike Wallace and his blazing speed departed for Miami, and the Steelers will no longer have the threat to hit the end zone each and every single play. However, for every splash play that Wallace provided, there were just as many drops that stifled the offense. Ultimately, Mike Tomlin was right, Wallace was a one-trick pony, and while it was a very good trick, he did not bring a complete game to the table. He is replaceable.
And yes, James Harrison has been cut, and the Steelers figurehead for several years may sign on to play in the division after the smoke has cleared. Harrison at one time was an animal that delivered the big plays that made the defense a force. However, after multiple injuries and age, the likelihood that he will return to the form of his youth is a delusion. While he can be serviceable, he will not dominate like he has in the past. At one point in time, if someone would have said that Harrison would be the defensive player of the year and deliver the greatest play in Super Bowl history, you would be looked at like you were nuts. Who is to say that Jason Worilds cannot deliver maybe not at Harrison’s level, but still at a high level? We need to give Worilds a chance to see what he can do in a full season as a starter. Who knows, maybe he will make Harrison an afterthought.
Then there is Keenan Lewis, who played well this past season and was the Steelers best corner. He, along with Ike Taylor, was a huge reason why the passing defense was solid. But just how many interceptions did Lewis deliver? Exactly. This is not to discount what Lewis contributed to the team, but if the organization felt that Lewis’ play was worth the cost, they would have forked out the cash. But they didn’t, and there is a reason for that decision. On the bright side, Cortez Allen appears primed to not only limit receptions and passing yardage, but it appears that he has the knack for the big play, and he could provide the turnovers that have been absent over the past two years.
Lastly, Emmanuel Sanders, if he gets an offer sheet and signs it, great. That’s a third round pick for the Steelers in a year that they need it in the draft. Sanders is a good, not a great, receiver, so the loss won’t be huge. And if you are concerned about the receiving corps, just remember that Ben Roethlisberger led his team to a championships with the likes of Antwaan Randle-El, Cedrick Wilson, Nate Washington, with the only big-timers being Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes. Remember, Roethlisberger can make it work with anybody, and with Antonio Brown to build around, the passing game will be just fine.
It is easy to condemn 2013 in March, but just keep in mind that the glass is half full and that the Steelers do have an elite, franchise quarterback. The changes that are happening were unavoidable and the youth movement has long been anticipated. It’s finally here, and it will be exciting to see which new stars emerge.
Here’s to a new era of Steelers football.