By Jeremy Hritz
The Pittsburgh Steelers open up preseason play tonight against the New York Giants, and there is great anticipation as to the quality of football that will be on display by all of the units. While the Steelers finished 12-4 in 2011, it was a season tarnished by a lack of turnovers and leaky offensive line play. Unfortunately, it was a preview of the decline that would continue in 2012, when revered veterans regressed even more, and the team’s youth and depth did not stake their claim as the next in line as Pittsburgh superstars.
With 8-8 now firmly behind them, the Steelers focus is completely on the 2013 season, and it may be the year in which the draft picks that have not fulfilled expectations reach their tipping points.
Unquestionably, there are players in the NFL that can step in immediately and excel in their positional duties. For the Steelers, names like Ben Roethlisberger and Maurkice Pouncey come to mind. However, these types of players are anomalies and are not the norm. For several players, achieving a starting-caliber level of play is a tedious process that requires perseverance from the player and patience from the organization. Recently, however, it has seemed that draft selections of the Steelers have been delayed in their progress.
The names that come to mind are defensive players such as Curtis Brown, Chris Carter, Cameron Heyward, Ziggy Hood, Stevenson Sylvester, and Jason Worilds, all of whom were looked upon to rise to meet the Mike Tomlin standard. And while that has not yet happened, 2013 could be the year that they fulfill the initial expectations of the Steelers organization. And if it is not, for some of them, it may be their final go-round donning the black and gold.
What may be in effect with these players is what individuals in business and education refer to as the “implementation dip,” which essentially is a period of lackluster results prior to the full implementation of an initiative. For those initiatives that are going to be successful, significant improvement in performance follow those periods of stagnation.
Could the Steelers defensive draft picks be examples of the “implementation dip?”
It is a possibility that the aforementioned defensive players have been slowed by difficulties in learning the intricacies of the Dick LeBeau defense, and their average performances may be the result of their struggles to grasp the complex 3-4 concepts.
Or, as much as the organization or fans do not want to accept it, these players may simply not be as good as they expected them to be.
The reports out of camp so far have been moderately positive about Carter and Sylvester, but quite the opposite for Brown. And as far as Hood, Heyward, and Worilds go, it has been quiet.
Sadly tonight, Brown is not expected to be on the field as he is battling an injury, but for the others, it is an opportunity for them to begin showing that they are capable of more than their average play from their first couple of seasons.
The Steelers have been in need of this kind of emergence the last two seasons, and in order to get back into the championship mix, they absolutely must have it.
Here’s to the end of the implementation dip.