Gil Brandt Says Steelers Facing Downward Spiral In 2014

By Jeremy Hritz

On July 9th, Gil Brandt posted an article on titled “Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Giants head now-or-never teams.” In his article, Brandt took his turn pounding the drum that so many in the national media have done over the last few seasons about the demise of the Steelers. His article is a quick analysis of teams that, in his opinion, have one more shot left in 2013, but are facing serious questions the following year. He organized his list based on the teams he thought would most likely face “hard times” in 2014, and at the top of his list was the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Brandt states, “The Steelers’ defense is getting older…. Ben Roethlisberger turned 31, the age at which most quarterbacks hit the wall and begin to regress…. I think Pittsburgh is good enough to contend in 2013, but things promise to get more difficult in 2014.”

Brandt also goes on to say that the Baltimore Ravens and the Cincinnati Bengals are set with “promising young quarterbacks” and that “they’ll likely be even tougher to beat a season from now.”

Following the Steelers on the list, in order, are the New York Giants, Chicago Bears, New England Patriots, Denver Broncos, and Houston Texans.

Brandt is a football guru that served the Dallas Cowboys as the Vice President of player personnel, and his analysis and perspective in his contributions on Sirius XM radio truly reveal how knowledgeable he is about the game of football. However, is he on target with his analysis?

Like his Sirius Radio compatriot, Pat Kirwan, Brandt believes that the Steelers can contend this coming season, which flies in opposition to what many other writers are forecasting for 2013. What is interesting is that Brandt sees the Steelers greatest adversity confronting them in 2014 and beyond, but is that argument valid?

There is no doubt players such as Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark, Brett Keisel, and Ike Taylor are entering what could be the final seasons of their careers depending on health, but the rest of the team is fairly young. And Ben Roethlisberger regressing at 31? That seems to be a hasty judgment.

The offensive line, though it hasn’t shown that it can stay healthy, is comprised of early round draft picks with the potential to accomplish great things, highlighted by All-Pro Maurkice Pouncey.

At wide receiver, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders have flashed talent and could be on the verge of producing great seasons now that Mike Wallace is not the primary deep threat for their franchise QB.

And what about Lawrence Timmons who is rounding into form and LaMarr Woodley who is poised to rebound in 2013?

In addition to these players, what about the wealth of young talent picked up in this year’s draft in Jarvis Jones, Le’Veon Bell, Markus Wheaton, and Shamarko Thomas? (Brandt, by the way, was highly critical of Jones because of his workout times).

If there is any position that is a serious question mark in the years to come, it is the defensive line, but the verdict on that unit is on hold until the conclusion of this season.

Brandt’s perspective is based on the potential departure of many esteemed players that have carried the Steelers in the past, and possibly, Brandt doesn’t perceive the inexperienced youngsters on the roster as players that can sustain the winning tradition that has been established in Pittsburgh.

Is Brandt correct in his analysis? The performance of the young players assuming starting roles moving forward will either prove him right or prove him wrong.

  • TJimmy

    As usual, the Steelers will likely prove him wrong. The d-line will be fine and the secondary has the Lake effect. I don’t know why sportswriters often assume the Steelers won’t develop replacement talent when they are one of the best in the league at doing so.

  • Jason Brant

    According to the ‘experts’, the defense has been getting old for a decade.

  • steeltown


  • steeltown

    “Hit the wall and regress” 31yrs old??? Ha! Tell that to P.Manning or Tom Brady or Brees or John Elway hell even Kurt Warner played at a high level till his mid-late 30’s the list goes on… Ben’s in his prime and will be for the next 3-4yrs.

    The DLine is a valid argument, but we still don’t know what we have in McLendon and Heyward, so I’ll reserve judgment

    In the end, demise is always a topic when players like Polamalu or Ike Taylor are finishing their careers. Every Team goes through it, the Steelers have groomed Cortez Allen to replace Taylor and are hoping that Shark Thomas and Cam Heyward will be able to step in at their respective positions by 2014

  • Jazz

    Well, certain players listed above on defense is getting older, we can’t deny that. However, this Organization has done it better than any other Organization when it comes to developing and replacing players past their prime. The only Position on Defense I’m concerned about is the D-Line; Ziggy Hood and Cameron Heyward has shown me absolutely Nothing! Now, in their defense, lets look back in time; Aaron Smith, Brett Kiesel, when exactly did both of them start to shine? I will answer that question for you; neither really started to come into their own until their 3rd year as a pro. Ziggy Hood has to S#it or get off the Pot this year; Cameron Heyward? The jury is still out on him, but he has progressed more rapidly than Ziggy Hood. The NT? Time will only tell.

  • Philippe Bourdon

    I honestly don’t know why Brandt gets so much credit. He is getting old and if you want to talk about someone who’s hit the wall, Brandt is a good example. The guy is full of knowledge in terms of statistics and history, he is a football encyclopedia but that doesn’t make you a good analyst. When he comes on, I mute the radio. We get it Gil, you’re a football genius, but I have to tell ya, football has changed in the last 30 years, you’re past your prime.

  • Luke Shabro

    This is my argument. Look at what Elway did in his last 2 years? To me Roethlisberger is very much in Elway in that he is mobile and good at extending the play both inside and outside the pocket however he is not a Michael Vick or RGIII that relies on running ability. So as he gets older its not as if he’s going to get smaller or unable to shed tacklers. His football IQ seems to get better every year. I feel like as long as we have Ben we will be a contender

  • Paul

    It may ring true if Tomlin’s draft picks, especially the first and second round continue to under perform. It’s impossible to sustain greatness when the great players are replaced with average ones. Ben should be good for 4-5 years.

  • Randy Neff

    I agree with all the points you raise in the article, Jeremy. Nice job.

    Brandt questions the productivity of Giants and Steelers defenders who are 30+, but yet no mention of Ngata and Suggs, who will be 30 and 32 next season. While Woodley needs to return to form this year, can he really be considered old at 28 ? I heard McNabb last night on Total Access include Timmons in the old group. Ugh.

    While some valid questions were raised, just focusing on older players seems narrow in looking ahead. The real question for the Steelers is how the young players pan out. Too early to make that call.

  • steeltown

    It’s funny, the Defense is “old” Polamalu has “lost a step and is injury prone” and Ike Taylor, Clark and Keisel are “past their prime” BUT when they’re gone in 2014 we will THEN be on the downward spiral.. well, which is it? Are we hurt now by their age and diminishing ability or will we be hurt when they depart because of the loss of said player??? …these “experts” are so confusing, mind numbing

  • StrengthOfVictory

    Please, please pity our “old and slow” defense. They’ve only managed to help us to three Super Bowl appearances in the last eight seasons. They only finished #1 against the pass the last two seasons, and #1 overall LAST season.

    I know that about 25 other teams in the league pity our old defense. Wait, no. What’s that other word? Envy.

    And 31 is when quarterbacks regress? Really? Don’t tell that to Joe Montana, who won Super Bowl XXII at 32. Or John Elway, who won back-to-back Super Bowls at 37 and 38. Oh, I’m reaching? We are talking about Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers QB with two rings already, right? That Ben Roethlisberger? Just checking.

    As usual, some analyst somewhere wants “credit” for predicting the demise of the Steelers. And why does it mean so much to them? Because they’re perennial contenders EVERY YEAR. No matter how many naysayers there are.


    Brandt hasn’t said anything that isn’t common knowledge to most Steeler fans. Both FS & SS are approaching the end, but Thomas appears to be a player. Golden got some time in LY. Foote & Keisel are the other obvious ones on DEF…I don’t expect it, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see Worilds or Jones moved inside. Some people forget Timmons was drafted to play OLB as well.

    My biggest concern is the DL…is McClendon an everyday NT? Is Ta’amu the future @ NT? Can Hood and Heyward hold their own…challenges ahead with the young players, yes. Steeler demise in ’14? I don’t see that yet.

  • Mike.H

    Reply to Gil Brandt… “What you talkin’ about, Willis?!!!”.

    [End Scene, bowing, exit stage].

  • walter mason

    Most of our recent drafts have ranged from mediocre to bad and that is the root cause for any speculation of demise. If we continue to have poor drafts, we will no doubt continue on a downward spiral. I dont think we have anyone left from the horrible 2008 draft and we may only have 1 player (Ziggy) from the 2009 draft when the season opens. But before you vote down just think about it a minute and read on.

    I never liked the Rainey pick and we had bad luck with Spence but I believe last years first 2 picks were very good along with Beachum and this years draft will be a huge success. Im counting on it. The draft is of the utmost importance to a team that has restructured itself out of the free agent market. Go Steelers! This draft, and the next, will put the Steelers back on top!

    But a bad draft will hurt a team for the next 5 years. Oops I forgot about Ramon Foster 2009!

  • Mr. Riggs

    In 2013, listening to Gil Brandt analyze is like my dad teaching me how to create an excel spreadsheet. And i’m 52!

  • steeltown

    The fact we have no one left (but Ziggy) from the ’09 draft class isn’t a reflection of poor drafting as Wallace, Keenan Lewis, Kraig Urbik and AQ Shipley have all been successful players (some elsewhere) but I’ll agree, when you build through the draft, ONE bad draft can effect the Team for yrs (e.g. 2008)

    That’s one reason why I absolutely love finding solid undrafted players, like Dan Kreider, James Harrison, Chris Hoke, Willie Parker, Nate Washington, Ramon Foster and hopefully soon to be added to the list of successful UDFAs A.Robinson, R.Golden, Drew Butler and Will Johnson

  • Jefferson_St_Joe

    For the Steelers to have a good 2013 season, it will require a lot of young and/or unproven players to step forward and play major roles. If that happens, I think the Steelers will be in a solid place going in to 2014. If there are going to be “hard times”, they will come this year or not for a while.

    The stuff about Roethlisberger going over the hill is plain bunk.

  • dgh57

    Gil Brant needs to look in the mirror when it comes to talking about who is getting old!!!!

    If we still had Harrison and Hampton what would he call us? Ancient?

    The problem with these so called football experts is that they skim the top of all 32 teams and don’t take the time to look down deep like a true fan would. Therefore, I wish they would just shutup because they are doing a bad job and I’m amazed they can even keep their job!

  • Intropy

    Roethlisberger is 31, so he’s old and about to hit a wall.

    Flacco is 28, so he promising and young.

    So a QBs peak is two years then, 29 and 30?

  • Gautama Om

    I stopped reading when I read that Brandt said at that age 31 is an age where QB’s like Ben take a dive. This could not be further from the truth. There are/has been TONS of QB’s who’ve thrived in the past over age 30 including CURRENTLY Peyton Manning and Tom Brady who are well into their 30’s.

    Hey Brandt, I think you’ve got the life span of a QB mixed up with RB’s tool! Now go bash your head on a wall.


    ’09 was a solid draft…so solid PIT couldn’t afford to keep the key guys…where Colbert has failed thus far in the draft imo was the front 7. Never really a major FA player, but when they decided to extend guys like Harrison, Troy P, and Aaron Smith, etc…that pretty much cemented the fact that draft was the only way to improve.

    Admittedly…I did like the Rainey pick thinking back on Fast Willie. Until the big hit the Ravens game, he actually played pretty well…But, he also proved to be the knucklehead that I heard he was @ FL.

  • JohnnyV1

    Given that the Steelers will most likely have 10-12 players from last year’s crop of rookies (aka those listed as 1st & 2nd yr players) and another 8-10 rookies make the squad this year, that’s 34-42% of the roster. So Jeremy is right on point saying it depends on how well the young guys play. It’s hard for anyone to predict how well the 2013 Steelers will play. As a fan, I hope very well. This time next year, we could be looking @ another 8-10 rookies making the squad, which could be 60% of team being 1st/2nd/3rd yr players. And “they” will still be calling the Steelers old.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    Elway succeeded late in his career because the Broncos rebuilt their running game with Terrell Davis. (Steelers draft Bell… check). Elway succeeded because the Broncos defense played well. (Steelers secondary is playing lights out… check). And lastly, Elway succeeded because he had a creative offensive coach in Shanahan who adjusted the offense to mask his weaknesses (Steelers bring in Haley… check.)

    You are correct. There are a lot of similarities between Elway’s situation and Ben’s situation IMO.

  • John A Stewart

    Lol I didn’t know this guy Gil was still alive.

  • sean mcmartin

    There may be some truth to this article. Losing Troy P, Ryan C, Brett K. L Foote,
    I taylor, will impact them next year and beyond.
    My hope is these guys realize their Last chance at a SB win is now and they all step up.
    These articles about the Steelers being too old are so lame. It’s like every other team stays the same age. But the Steelers are too old.

  • sgtrobo

    well it has. of course, that’s because we had 3 dominant guys for over half a decade, and we didn’t need to replace them until they got injured.

  • sgtrobo

    if Ben can “act his age”, like Elway had to learn to do, and learn to play more cerebral rather than relying on ridiculous physical ability, we still have many years of contention in us.

  • sgtrobo

    Cam Heyward was dominant vs. Baltimore. Watch him on All-22, and focus no him completely. If Heyward hasn’t shown you anything, then you missed that game. Unfortunately, he was only allowed to watch from the sidelines most of the other games

  • sgtrobo

    and Aaron Rodgers will turn 30 by December.

    obviously 31 is ancient


    The players you just listed, we’ve known for awhile they were getting injured a lot…sure sign of age…but I’m not sure it means the Steelers will be an also ran in 2014. I think Thomas will starting @ one of the S positions in ’14, and I’m not that worried about the CBs…DL & ILB I am worried.

  • Dan

    Yeah, QBs hit the wall at age 31. On that note, Aaron Rodgers turns 30 in December, so let’s savor these next two seasons from him, because they’ll be his last as a relevant QB. Gil Brandt said so.

  • Dan

    I’ve been asking people the same thing: is our defense “old and slow,” or are we going to miss all the aging veterans when they’re gone?

  • Dan

    In 1996 and 1997, the Steelers had a pair of bad drafts. In 1998 and 1999, the team regressed, but the drafts were good. By 2000, the team was resurgent.

    Obviously, the 2008 draft was a disaster, and the 2009 draft seems wasted now that most of the players are gone. This is probably why the team regressed in 2011 and 2012. But you can’t say that the Steelers drafted poorly in 2010 (Maurkice Pouncey, Emmanuel Sanders, Antonio Brown) or 2011 (Cameron Heyward?, Marcus Gilbert, Cortez Allen), and you can’t put a grade on the 2012 draft since all the high draft picks suffered significant injuries.

    If anything, I expect the Steelers to be resurgent in 2013 and 2014 due to contributions from the solid 2010 and 2011 drafts.

    By the way, the Steelers defense had eight starters over 30 at the start of the 2011 season, seven starters over 30 at the start of the 2012 season, and will have five starters over 30 at the start of this season. Looks like the defense is getting younger to me.

  • Jason White

    I laugh at stuff like this. The “experts” knock the Steelers defense for being too old and when they shed the senior citizens such as Casey Hampton and James Harrison they now become weak. Well which one is it? Are the old farts a strength to the Steelers or are they a weakness?

  • SteelerDave

    DL and ILB are obviously the most concerning areas moving forward. Solution may already in-house though if McClendon proves himself and Heyward is the real deal. Also Hood did show overall improvement and that should continue though our DL will never be a strength, just good enough.

    ILB could be solved by moving Worlids to ILB and Jones starts at ROLB. We hopefully also have Spence back. Woodley must rebound into shape.

    Both positions could also be turned into strengths if we use a high enough pick on them next year.

  • Stevie

    Gil Brandt is over the hill.

  • Stevie

    Jeremy – I think this write up was very controversal and is well discussed here, good job keeping our attention right before camp starts.

  • steeltown

    I don’t think they (analyst) even know… just love to hate the Steelers

  • steeltown

    It has been said, there for it is

  • Isaac Reveles

    Sean Spence, Vince willams, Rolle…Steelers are ok at ILB besides Timmons is becoming a dominate ILB

  • ecummins82

    Which is funny considering Ben won his first Super Bowl at age 23 (youngest QB in NFL history to win a Super Bowl) and then his second one at age 26 (2 years YOUNGER than when Flacco won his Super Bowl at age 28). If Flacco were so “promising and young” he’d have already won 2 Super Bowls by this point…

  • ecummins82

    I think the difference between Peyton and Ben is that Peyton has a HORRIBLE playoff record compared to Ben.

  • colingrant

    He’s not thinking the Steelers are on the cusp of a downward spiral. He’s HOPING for it.