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Steelers Seem To Be One Of The ‘Teams To Watch’ This Offseason


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.

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About Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • RW

    The thing that he’s right about is that they need to be slightly more active in free agency this year than in year’s past. It doesn’t mean they need to bring any big names in, but it does mean they should 1) retain some of their more promising FAs or soon-to-be FAs and 2) look carefully at some of the guys considered to be middle-of-the-road type players – the ones that, with a little bit of coaching, could become great. My thoughts for FAs to target initially are:

    1) Dexter McCluster (would finally provide a great special teamer not named Antonio Brown)
    2) Wesley Woodyard
    3) Hakeem Nicks (if they don’t target a big WR in the draft and instead choose to grab a TE). It’s hard to see this happening, as the Giants will try hard to keep him and he’ll probably demand more than we can pay him, but one can dream.

  • Caesar

    No on Nicks. Too up and down to pay top dollar for. I would look to some of the CBs available, even it meant going ahead and spending some cash. Alterraun Verner comes to mind. Also, there are some interesting potential RT types if they end up finding a lukewarm market, like Roger Saffold of Zach Strief-two guys who won’t blow anyone away but would let the Steelers move on from Mike Adams and slide Gilbert into a swing role.

  • dkoy85

    Hey, it’s all fine and dandy if they’re able to retain the players heading into their second contracts, but if you think for one second they should keep these aging vets-the majority are in decline without a suitable backup- and let players like Keenan Lewis and Worilds walk then you’re completely off base when you make it seem like the outsiders don’t know what they’re talking about. Cutting Ike last year and signing Lewis would have been huge… Keeping Ike this year and letting Worilds walk could prove to be another major blunder. If they don’t cut some of these players and sign some solid, affordable free agents in the secondary this year or along the D-line then we’re in trouble.

    Now don’t get me wrong, if they are able to keep the old boys and sign Worilds and another piece or two- even veteran minimum types- then I’m all for keeping them to help the young guys transitions smoother. The Steelers and Tomlim/Colbert cannot afford to miss the playoffs for a 3rd straight year. Not with an aging franchise QB under center.

  • Kenneth Wilt

    Everyone likes to talk about how old we are, yet no one really looks at the roster and does a good analysis of how that age is going to change. We currently have 16 guys 30 years of age and older. Of that group I would be surprised if more than half come back. Even if they do, some of these guys are not going to be major contributors to our wins and losses. That is not to say they don’t play a vital role, but only that their age may not. For instance, 3 of those 16 are the kicker, punter, and long snapper. Vital to our success, but the fact that their 30 has very little bearing on their ability to do the job. Gradkowski and Spaeth are in that group, but understand they are both back-ups NOT starters. There is also another group of guys who are going to get cut or not be back. Clark, Foote, Whimper, Keisel, and Burress.

    This team will be younger as an overall roster next year, but I truly believe that our offense overall will have more experience and be better and the young guys we have on defense will take a step as well. We are probably one-third of the way through a roster overhaul….we must be patient.

  • mlc43

    I can understand where Schein is coming from, and I, in most ways, agree with him. I think it’s safe to say that Clark is gone. I can see a very legitimate case made for cutting TP due to the massive amount of cap savings. Ike has to take a pay cut. Woodley…well, heck, anything we do with him is just sad at this point.
    Now, do I think we’ll cut TP or Woodly? Probably not. We don’t have a lot of depth behind them so I honestly see us riding it out with them one more year.

  • steeltown

    Funny thing is, if you subtract Ryan Clark, Larry Foote, Ike Taylor, Brett Keisel, Plaxico Burress and Matt McBriar the roster is actually pretty damn young.. and most if not all the of the aforementioned might actually be gone, save maybe Ike Taylor for another year and possibly Keisel or Foote

  • Steve

    Of the four players that were mentioned Troy is the only one we need to keep. Ike, Woodley, Clark, Keisel and Foote can all go with their declining efforts. The article the other day shown how bad Ike’s year was in 2013 and he sure will not get better. Clark can’t tackle and Keisel and Foote were hurt too much. Bring on a new group of guys as we say goodbye to old slow money.

  • 20Stoney

    I think Adams gets one more year before moving on. I’d like to see what he can do with a full pre season and some time with Munchak.

  • steeltown

    Indeed.. but I think we are a little further than 1/3 of the way or atleast we will be after they lockup a few guys, but I agree most of the names mentioned are gone and the roster for the most part is actually very young

  • steeltown

    I could actually see Polamalu getting an extension through 2015, in turn lowering his 2014 cap.. at 32yrs old he is the ONLY veteran I see getting an extension, well him, Ben and Miller of course. I could also see Keisel being offered a 1yr vet minimum deal.

  • steeltown

    Sadly in hindsight, Ike Taylors poor season makes it so he almost cant argue with a paycut at this point, well he can, but you know what I mean.

  • mlc43

    I like TP as much as the next guy, but I don’t want him extended. He’s at the end of an awesome career but I feel we’re at the cut or live with it stage. I would keep him, liability in coverage that he is, unless we were willing to go out and get a good FA safety. I also wouldn’t mind seeing Keisel back at the min.

  • mlc43

    and our lack of depth makes his return at a reduced price almost certain as well.

  • Steve

    Keisel played well when he was on the field but he was hurt too often in 2013. Can see Troy being on the team one more year.

  • steeltown

    He’s still one of only a few playmakers on Defense, we need him

  • steeltown

    Keisel would provide good experienced depth for another year

  • Tanner Blackman

    I think having vets is extremely important to have. Players like Nick Colllins(help outThomas), Richie Incongnito (DeCastro and Foster), Kamerion Wimbley (could teach Jones how to bend), Fernando Velasco (great backup), Jerricho Cotchery (doesnt care about money). Would be cheap and would help out a lot. All might sign vet mins

  • dgh57

    I think it’s Gilbert that gets one more year since his contract expires after 2014. After one year under Munchack guidance Adams may be our starting RT in 2015. At least that’s my hope because Gilbert is my least favorite of the starting O-Lineman.

  • Steeler Fanatic

    I am in the minority but I re-sign Levi Brown for cheap. He won’t have a big market, but he came off an injury and gave up four sacks in four games, including three in one game to Robert Quinn, his first game back. Low risk, high reward. I have said this before, sign schofield (sea) or haralson (no ) at outside ‘backer. Maybe pay for a safety like t.j. Ward or mike mitchell.

  • steeltown

    So you want to release Levi Brown and then re-sign him for cheap? I dont see it happening but that would be ideal.. I guess we’ll see

  • Steeler Fanatic

    Don’t know the schematics, but maybe void his contract and give him an incentive laden deal

  • Eric MacLaurin

    I think the point is less about a change in hemoglobin and more about yanking the bandaid all and once and getting rid of the last group of overpriced vets. It should have happened last year but instead we let Lewis go and played a lot of young and minimum guys to compensate for a few big deals.

    We have supposedly proven this is a 500 team. We should rebuild instead of patching.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Go back a couple of years and count the players. Recount now and you will see that they are more than 1/2 way done on the overhaul. That’s why I say get rid of a few more. We are almost there and need to keep the younger better guys as long as they do not expect to break the bank.

    And also, money will be required to retain young players this year and next and by getting rid of just a couple of guys, they may also be able to make some small moves in FA some day in the future.

    I am not saying clean house, but painful stuff like maybe Woodley and Taylor. And, Yes, I am well aware the predicament that would put the Steelers in initially. Very tough situation with starters and back-ups. Unfortunately, they need to be pro-active and those would be my tough choices.

  • Kenneth Wilt

    I say 1/3 for this reason. Last year we made big changes in the core. This year it will happen again. Next offseason, we will be adding appropriate depth which in the following season will get experience, and the following year….we are winning it all.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    If the rest of the D was good enough for him to play his actual position, he would still be good and potentially spectacular. I could envision him making less plays in the backfield and many more INT’s ideally. We shall see.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Yeah, and as far as that idiot that keeps calling all the Steelers “Old and Slow” (And he happens to be the same tool that screamed that a certain HOFer was not worthy.), I say hold on a minute:

    The O-Line is now the youngest in the NFL! After next year, the whole team may be one of the youngest in the NFL. So tell that guy to STFU!

    Unfortunately, my idea is still the best I have heard: Get all the high priced talent in the same room and ask them 1 simple question

    “Will you take a pay cut and try to compete for a championship right now?” If the answer is no, we may just have to cut you now and take our medicine. Sorry, but the business side of this game is real tough.

  • Bill Molinaro

    This article sort of refutes what Schein and a lot of others have been saying about the Steelers off season changes. Marczi says it’s easy to say the Steelers need young blood when what they really need is good players of any age and that is true. And the Steelers have gotten a lot younger. What I would like the Steelers to do is: improve salary cap management; this cannot be totally completed in 2014 but they must work to limit pushing cap problems into later years; Adjust to today’s NFL and develop young players more quickly and then re-sign them sooner; Determine what the identity of this team is and draft players based first on how they fit that identity; and of course the one thing that’s easy for all of us to say but is difficult to do – just draft better. One thing that all the self proclaimed experts say that’s true is that you should try to avoid paying players who once were great but are now average the same money as when they were great.

  • WIINGY

    Yeah let’s keep Ike Taylor. Nobody can replace him! It will take any free agent or rookie 5 years to learn dicks scheme. They should all play until they are 40.

  • RedCarpetDefense

    This team is fine. The pendulum looked to be on the upswing the second half of the season. New (better?) coaches, continued improvement from the rookies last year, getting guys back healthy and into the starting lineup contributing at a level as expected, possible FA player or two acquired and a draft with players able to contribute positively their rookie season…2014 is gonna be the year the Steelers are back in the playoffs.

  • alex

    the writing, and the player cuts, have been on the proverbial wall as of late for our beloved Steelers…we are all hoping some of our 30 somethings with something still in the tank will give us a $$$ break to stick around another year or so to contribute and retire as Steelers…

    then this can help us to transition to our in flux new younger look to continue on into this decade and beyong!

  • Carol Fischbach

    If new blood is better than old blood then the Steelers should of had a winning season. They had a bunch of young players, this past year. Yet, it took most them to the middle of the season to start playing satisfactorily. In the meantime, the team was going down like the Titanic.

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