By Jeremy Hritz
On July 9th, Gil Brandt posted an article on NFL.com 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.