Steelers Not Flinching With Youth Emerging

By Jeremy Hritz

We are getting closer and closer to a new NFL season.

The scouting combine is a distant memory, the 2013 schedule has been released, and within a matter of days, the NFL Draft will be here, and a new crop of Pittsburgh Steelers will generate a newfound enthusiasm and optimism for the upcoming season.

It has been a unique offseason for the Steelers, and one that followed a season of mediocrity at 8-8. Last year’s record was the worst ever for head coach Mike Tomlin and only the second time in his career that a Steelers team had missed the playoffs. And if you keep up with the media surrounding 2013’s version of the team, the Steelers don’t have a prayer to rebound and regain their position as one of the NFL’s most dominant teams.

One of criticisms of the Steelers organization has become redundant and obnoxious this offseason and that is the team’s unwillingness to make moves in free agency. And while the team is cash-strapped and really cannot make noise in the free agent market, historically, they have shown that doing so is not necessary.

I myself have been critical of some of the recent drafts of the Steelers because of the lack of stars that have emerged. However, in previous seasons, with the exception of last year, there hasn’t been a need to push younger players into starting roles.

Nevertheless, several fresh faces will take over starting positions next season, and a new generation of Steelers will look to make their mark in the record books.

Consider these new full-time starters:

  • Steve McLendon: Fans have been clamoring for McLendon to be the starting nose tackle, and it will finally come to reality in 2013. He has flashed in his limited role with the Steelers, and his recent contract extension shows that the team believes in his abilities.
  • Cortez Allen: Allen will take over for Keenan Lewis, who played well but could not create turnovers. Allen demonstrated his play-making ability last season and could be the reason for an increase in turnovers on the defensive side of the ball.
  • Jason Worilds: Worilds has had the necessary time to develop, and his chance to start is here. Worilds has followed the same process of the great Steelers outside linebackers that have come before him, and he may be primed for a big season. No doubt he is ready to showcase what he can do as a fulltime starter.

What also cannot be overlooked is the experience that David DeCastro and Mike Adams gained last year as newbies on the offensive line. These were highly-touted players in college that gained starting experience last season and could potentially develop into elite lineman.

When you look at the big picture, the new-look Steelers are a nice blend of youth, veteran experience, and by the way, a franchise, two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback. And that doesn’t even factor in the new prospects that will be added in the draft.

While many teams would be panicking right now, the Steelers haven’t flinched. They’ve been here before.

Just don’t expect them to stay there very long.

  • mokhkw

    Generally it’s been a normal offseason for the Steelers; some players leave and others are put into starting roles. Thing to keep in mind is that while a player may be good enough to start, it’s hard to replace Pro Bowl caliber players like Harrison, Hampton, Wallace etc.

    For instance, if Worilds can get 10 sacks for the season, apply constant pressure, be solid in run support and coverage (boy does that have me worried) then he’ll have been a good replacement, even if he doesn’t play up to level Harrison did in his prime.

    One thing I hope all this change will bring is something I haven’t seen from the Steelers since 2008 – a real hunger to win, a chip on their shoulder & a nasty attitude. I’ve said it before – this team is much better when they’re pissed off & have something to prove.

    Sometimes change is good, even if you don’t realize it at the time.

    I recall when they let Thigpen walk in FA. I was mad as hell, where can we find another player to make those tough grabs over the middle and be a reliable target on 3rd down? They drafted one the next year, even though no one realized it at the time.

    Same happened with Carnell Lake. No way we’ll ever be able to find a Safety with his unique skill set, a blitzer & playmaker who can play coverage so well he could start at CB……yea, right. It took a few years, but they found one.

    As usual, the Steelers will get some cheap FAs in June/July. They’ll wait for other teams to cut some vets when they get their new toys ( Draft picks) & decide that some players aren’t needed anymore.

    Just be glad we’re not run like the Jets, Cowboys etc. who would panic & mortgage their long term success for an expensive stop-gap.

  • Maurice_hill_district

    I wouldnt call this offseason unique. We lose players every year to free agency & cuts & we always have a few young players each offseason.

  • dgh57

    To me it has been a little bit of a unique off season. How often do other teams offer one of our RFA(Sanders) a contract that we have to match? Packers with McClendon until we stepped in with a deal of our own. Kenan Lewis was worthy of a new deal but we declined.

  • alex

    i tend to agree with this position…as long as we stay healthy, we can gain ground…but then there is 2014, where BEN, Woodley, Timmons, and Brown (among some lesser others) will be recieving a collection raise of $19 Million…and then Clark, Keisel, and Sanders will be FA…

    which means a third year of major turnover…kinda hard to stay ahead with such a top heavy payroll…

  • SteelerDave

    Well said.

  • Chris Ranieri

    Really going to be interesting in a few years when Clark, Polamalu, Ike, and Larry are all gone.