By Matthew Marczi
There seems to be somewhat of an agreement around the league that the Pittsburgh Steelers will be one of the more interesting teams to follow this offseason. For example, Adam Schein recently listed the Steelers at the top of a list of the nine “most intriguing” teams to watch, above teams such as the Arizona Cardinals and the Philadelphia Eagles.
Schein never exactly gives much of a reason as to why the Steelers will be intriguing to watch, other than insinuating that he will be interested to see if they do what he thinks that they should do.
Like many outsiders not intimately familiar enough with the team to understand, Schein is among the many who believe that the answer for the Steelers to return to prominence is simply to cut all of their highly-paid players over 30 that are not the quarterback. He writes:
“The Steelers need to stop living in the past and trim the fat. You could easily argue that it's time to cut the cord on Troy Polamalu, Ike Taylor, LaMarr Woodley and Ryan Clark. Pittsburgh needs new blood.”
Because “new blood” is always better than ‘old blood’, and easy to come by, as well. If new blood was in such easy supply, the old blood simply wouldn’t be allowed to hang around for so long.
According to Schein, the Steelers “need to be active when it comes to changing their look and improving the roster”, a phrase that would literally be otherwise meaningless, but of course is actually a euphemism for ‘active in free agency’.
The Steelers had some of the most significant roster turnover in their history last offseason, which included saying goodbye to seven starters: Max Starks, Willie Colon, Mike Wallace, Rashard Mendenhall, Casey Hampton, James Harrison, and Keenan Lewis.
The back end of the roster was overhauled to an even greater extent, yet that resulted in a second consecutive 8-8 season. What Schein and many others fail to realize is that the majority of the steps toward “changing their look” and “improving the roster” have already taken place; they simply take time to develop.
That’s largely why the Steelers went 2-6 during the first half of the season before finishing on a 6-2 run. The offensive line had never played together. Marcus Gilbert and Mike Adams had never played on the same line as David DeCastro, for example. Of course, losing Maurkice Pouncey also threw a wrench into the works as well.
Additionally, Le’Veon Bell would have been facing a learning curve regardless of whether or not he missed time. And as evidenced by the performances of the early running backs, the line wasn’t ready to block for the run yet either. Neither, of course, were the injured tight ends.
The Steelers will certainly be an interesting team to follow this offseason, but it won’t simply be about cutting old players with high salaries and replacing them with young players. ‘Getting younger’ is not nearly as effective as ‘getting better’, but ‘getting younger’ is just such an easy thing to point to that deflects actual critical analysis (cue Warren Sapp). But the Steelers have not been shy about trimming the fat in recent years anyway, where the only hub of old age left is in the secondary.