Are The Steelers Rebuilding This Offseason?

There has been some discussion this offseason over whether or not the Pittsburgh Steelers are actually ‘rebuilding’. It’s a none too surprising topic, given the team’s .500 record over the past two seasons, but is there evidence to support the argument?

The Steelers have already allowed a handful of free agents to walk, many of whom there appeared to be little interest in actually bringing back.

Most notably, perhaps, were the departures of wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and defensive end Ziggy Hood, whose contracts combined exceed $30 million.

In addition, they also released outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley, who has been one of the team’s best players on either side of the ball over the past six seasons, barring frequent health concerns, as well as Larry Foote.

These moves could be seen as consistent with a team that is rebuilding, if you look at some of the depth that now must be…well, rebuilt, particularly along the defensive line and in the offensive backfield.

The fact of the matter, however, is that quite simply the evidence for the opposing argument is overwhelming.

Were the Steelers truly rebuilding, we would have seen a far more significant cap purge. Instead of being restructured or asked to take a pay cut, the likes of Ike Taylor, Troy Polamalu, and Heath Miller would have been prime candidates for release thanks to their inflated base salaries.

In addition, even with a liberal estimate, we could be looking, at best, at perhaps five new starters in 2014 that were not on the team in 2013. If, for example, C.J. Mosley and Kelvin Benjamin were drafted in the first and second round, they could perhaps start at inside linebacker and wide receiver, respectively.

If the Steelers sign Alex Carrington, he would appear likely to be a starting defensive end. Mike Mitchell will start at free safety. Punter is also a prime candidate to see a fresh starter.

And that is, mind you, a quite liberal estimate that is not likely to happen. It’s equally, if not more likely that Mitchell ends up as the only starter that wasn’t already with the team, perhaps with the exception of punter.

This is not the Indianapolis Colts after Peyton Manning, or the first seasons of the Seattle Seahawks or Tampa Bay Buccaneers under Pete Carroll and Rahim Morris, respectively. The Steelers are a far cry from tearing this roster apart and building it up again, not with upwards of 20 incumbent starters on offense, defense, and special teams apparently set to keep their starting jobs.

Realistically, it’s hard to make the argument that a team with a franchise quarterback is ever rebuilding, in any meaningful sense. There is talent on this roster, and the organization believes it can compete. Until those facts change, the word ‘rebuilding’ will not be in the Steelers’ vocabulary.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • 20Stoney

    I thought rebuilding should have begun last year, starting by letting Sanders go to New England. Defense definitely needs rebuilt. Offense only needs some tweaks in my opinion.

  • Steelers12328882

    If you simply measured the Steelers at the end of last year and you took into account the additions and subtractions to the roster so far it would appear that we’re not only NOT rebuilding, but we’re still on the decline.

  • mlc43

    Agreed and a good assessment. I was also in favor of letting Sanders walk last year. I also agree that the Defense needs a lot more work than the offense. The Steelers started out last year exactly like I thought they would…ok, they were a little worse than I predicted. However, they ended the year exactly like I didn’t predict. I don’t think they are rebuilding from scratch but I think they are definitely rebuilding on the fly. How it will work is yet to be seen. Will we see the team from the first half of last season or the team from the second half.

  • grw1960

    Reloading might be a better term.
    Seems to me they are hoping/planning to change enough to make the play offs in 2014. And thinking to add more through the 2014 and 2015 drafts to make a run high into the play offs in 2015.
    Needless to say this years draft is crucial to the Steelers making another Super Bowl in Ben’s playing window.

  • mlc43

    I’m not so sure about that. Despite what happens with the record this year the things they did this off season sets them up in a more favorable future position. That can’t be seen as a decline.

  • Steelers12328882

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the Steelers had a choice to do it any differently without rebuilding, but as we stand now there’s more holes on this team than there was at the end of last year, and if we are not yet rebuilding then that means we still have some shaky times ahead in our future. Of course you could say, despite signing M&M, that we’re getting better because of addition by subtraction.

  • mlc43

    I agree with the addition by subtraction. lol

  • Paddy

    They started rebuilding the offensive line last year, the running game was rebuilt around Bell. This year the defensive line, linebackers and half the secondary will change. Next season the rest will be filled in.

  • John

    A veeeeeerrrrrry sssssslllllloooooow rrrrrreeeeeebuillllllld.

    …and I frankly can’t think of a better way to go about it. Let’s watch what happens next.

  • Steelers12328882

    BTW, C.J. Mosley in the 1st rd. and Kelvin Benjamin in the 2nd rd.? Sign me up for that! Actually, I’d take anyone at 1:15 if Benjamin lasts until 2:15.

  • steeltown

    I think the quote/unquote “rebuilding” did start last year and will continue through next year.. with our new starting LBs to the eventual new secondary that should in all likelihood include Mitchell, Thomas, Cortez Allen and a player yet to be named, our RB and WR depth charts are being reshaped with only Antonio Brown as the long standing veteran and one would think they’ll be looking for Miller’s successor very soon.


    The biggest acquisition this year so far was Mike Munchak! Hope he can train Adams to take over for Gilbert, as he is the biggest liability on the team right now.

  • steeltown

    Agreed… I sort of believe the so called rebuilding started last year and will continue through next year, a 3yr reload

  • mlc43

    I’m hoping next year will FOR SURE seeing us in a position to compete for a SB…or at least getting back on top the Div. I’m not writing this year off by any means but it will be a struggle and take things coming together early and often for us to win the div. Maybe I’m overly optimistic but I can’t help it lol.

  • treeher

    I like the comment that you’re never really rebuilding when you have a franchise QB. Reloading, tweaking, filling holes, etc. My biggest concern is that in today’s game, injuries are ubiquitous and I don’t think the team is built right now to handle that.

  • James Kling

    We’ve had consecutive 8-8 seasons. I consider that an indication that we’re rebuilding. We’ll see if we’ve done a good job of it, but right now there are more holes than plugs.

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    I believe rebuilding actually started two seasons ago with rainey decastro and spence and that draft class had alot of talent for us but due to injuries and character issues didnt work out the way they planned which actually was a major set back last yr it took time for healthy starters to develop team chemistry this yr they can see it as rebuiling but i think i see it as reloading

  • Shannon Stephenson

    Not sure what it is but it seems to be a mess to me.

  • Jason

    I Agree But I Don’t Want Benjamin At 1:15 As I’ve Seen In Some mocks

  • StrengthOfVictory

    Remodeling is perhaps a better word, since the pieces seem to be happening little by little. The offensive line, for instance, was a project over many seasons…beginning all the way back with Pouncey. The receiving corps, defensive line, and secondary seem to be the next pieces to show gradual transition.

  • Chad H

    That’s what I believe they are looking at. There won’t be enough players on this roster to go deep in the play offs. I believe the moves this year and next should set them up well for 2015 and 2016. There won’t to many opportunities after those years with Ben.


    Absolutely the Steelers are rebuilding…what’s different from the norm in the NFL is the team still has a top level QB in his prime. That creates expectations that may be unrealistic in terms of the won/loss record, but the reality is the team has needed to turnover many positions. I would equate it to the same thing that’s happening in SD.

  • RW


  • Kenneth Wilt

    A couple of extensions are not proof that we are not rebuilding. The offense hasn’t gone through a lot of changes, but the D the last 2 years…has.

    Keisel/Hampton/Hood… Heyward/McLendon/TBD
    Harrison/Foote/Timmons/Woodley……now Worilds/Williams/Timmons/Jones
    Ike/Clark/Troy/Lewis… Allen/Mitchell/Troy/????

    I guess potentially Ike starts, but he took a pay cut for more than likely a reduced role. Gay or a rookie could also start there. Even if you assume that Ike starts….8 of our 11 starters on defense are different than they were from 2 years ago. If Ike doesn’t start then it is 9 of a 11.

    We are rebuilding and have been rebuilding this D. Last season the purge began with Harrison and Hampton, older guys that needed to go, and this season it has continued with Foote, Keisel, and Clark. That is 5 guys over the age of 34 who have been removed from this D. They were the right moves, but we will see growing pains because of it.

  • cencalsteeler

    A better word might be “playing catch up”. While we held on to aging vets to make one more run at the Super Bowl, the rest of the NFL was getting younger. Now, were faced with a situation where we look up, and find ourselves as the old guys on the block. We are now faced with replacing our vets with youth just to maintain equality with the rest of the teams. In the meantime, the game has evolved as well since our last Super Bowl run, so were “playing catch up” with meeting those needs as well.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Thank you for quoting me. I am flattered. The day they signed Munchack, I said the exact same thing. Mike will be the most important acquisition by far, although it will take a little time to prove.

  • steeltown

    To be honest I don’t like what Cinci or Balt has done (or not done) so far this offseason, I think both teams are weaker than this time last year

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Of course, they are rebuilding, even if they call it something different. The tone was set last year by taking a hard stance with James Harrison. James Harrison, the stud! Our price or bye, bye! This year they continued with this trend with some players, not the ones that they believe will still contribute (Troy and Heath, with Ike for 1 year at a reduced rate because he knew they were serious). The process began last year and I am happy.

    I said last year that the players that win the next Super Bowl will likely not be the ones that won the last one. It’s seems I am correct and the Steelers are acting accordingly. Let’s hope at least Big Ben is still around. I think he will definitely be around for some play-off runs. If Troy and Heath are still here for the next play-off run, that would be a great bonus as the Steelers will be ahead of schedule.


    To me, this is a moot point – rebuilding or not. There are only two statuses that matter in the NFL (at least for the few teams like ours that regularly have won SBs) – SB Champion, or not.

  • Steve

    The rebuilding process is always on going. Steelers don’t like to “Clean House” and would rather bring in a few players each year to add to their team.

  • Steeler Wheeler

    Couldn’t disagree more. As a fan I love getting excited for the season, checking in on the draft but that is rarely relevant to the upcoming year, getting psyched in August, catching the games in September, enjoying the wins, hoping for better play after losses, figuring out the playoff picture, maybe getting a home playoff game or two, etc.

    Losing the SB is really no big deal…the Steelers play in February, losing the AFC championship game hurts but it’s still a terrific season. I’m out by Buffalo and those fans love, love, I mean LOVE the draft ‘cuz that’s all they got and more times than not they are happier to watch kids get candy than to go to games in November. Terrible seasons suck, and even at 8-8 the Steelers were in the playoff hunt to the very last. We are so spoiled.

    Did you know in the last 41 years The Steelers::

    Finished last in the division just once?
    Had just 7 losing seasons but 8 SB trips?

    My thanks to the Rooneys.

  • Steve

    The offensive line has been a work in progress for the last couple of years. With Munch Coaching hopefully they can start to Gel and bring on the running game. Ike and Troy don’t have long left in the secondary.

  • Depends on how you define it. Rebuilding does not always mean a cap purge, and in truth, we were rebuilding last year as well. We always are, but some years more than others.

  • Lucus Rodriguez

    I like a lot of the moves the team has been making. I think they should have kept Woodley but they drafted Jarvis to play that right side and Woirlds showed he can play the left side like a man. Letting Lewis go the season before was the right move no matter what people have to say about it. Cortez Allen was more than ready to step in as a starter and when he was healthy this season he played well. Hood and Sanders were both not worth the contracts they received although I do think Hood will excel as a DT in a 4-3. If they land at least on difference maker on defense in the draft, or even if Mitchell steps in and makes plays like he did last season (4 ints and 4 sacks in 14 games) than they will be a player this season for a good push


    If we can continue the pass protection from the end of the season and establish a solid run attack in the first several pre-season games, I will be very optimistic. Our line play in the pre-season last year foretold our impending collapse, go Mike! Please get rid off Gilbert!

  • sean mcmartin

    after 0-4 in the pre-season, the writing was on the wall.then a couple weeks later they came out flat and unmotivated on MNFL. I knew it was curtains for the season. I had alot of negative replies for writing it, But it was what it was.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I think a team’s actions are more indicative of whether or not they’re starting over than their win-loss record.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Rebuilding is deliberate, artificial change. Turning over old veterans is natural.

  • Matthew Marczi

    If we don’t take a pretty hard-line, extreme stance on what it means for a franchise to “rebuild”, then it’s essentially meaningless, because every team rebuilds every offseason.

  • Paddy

    Munch the miracle worker

  • The way I see it, there is re-tooling, which all teams do every year, there is rebuilding, where teams need to restock depth and talent more than usual, which we are doing now, and started last year, and there is complete, cap hell tear down rebuilding, which we are not doing.

    It’s pretty hard, IMO, to make an argument that a team that has no depth at RB, DE or OLB, and is thin in other areas, is not rebuilding.

  • James Kling

    Agreed, Matthew. But if we looked at those 8-8 seasons from an historical perspective, and this could certainly be done in far greater detail, you could see the 8-8 seasons as the result of and correlated to the rebuilding.
    2005 (11-5, Super Bowl win); followed by 2006 (8-8, missed playoffs), 2007 (10-6, lost WC round), 2008 (12-4, Super Bowl win). This represents the sort of normal re-stocking process of a Super Bowl winning team – you can see the dropoff, but a strong core was there, and each year after the 8-8 season there was progress,
    2009 (9-7, missed playoffs) was a year that the Steelers started 6-2 before dropping 5 straight, including losses to very poor caliber teams. This has become something of a Tomlin trademark. It might appear that the Steelers were again potentially building toward a Super Bowl win with their SB appearance in 2010 (12-4), but that loss to Green Bay appears to be the last hurrah of the 2005-08 Super Bowl core.
    Moving onto 2011 (12-4, but a loss to the Tebow Broncos in WC round) and the successive 8-8 seasons of 2012 (5 losses over last 7 games) and 2013 (lost first 4, and 6 of 8), both of which featured ugly losses to bad teams.

    Most of the 2005-08 core is gone. Serious questions about starters in the secondary, at DL, and OL have emerged over the past 3 years. Quality of depth is questionable, many starter roles remain unfilled or in flux, and number of players signed to future years versus cap expenditure is a bad ratio. Worse, rebuilding through the draft has not lived up to hype, notably the 2008 and 2009 classes now being closed books, and the pipeline of successive drafts yielding few (positive) knowns.
    So: the arrow was pointing up (2005-08), then evened out (09-10), then since 2011 has been downward. But at least, after the 0-4 start we stabilized and did not continue downward; hurrah for small victories. We are thin across the board, cash-strapped, and projecting the 2015-17 core shows little to build on. I’d say the best analogy might be that we’re rebuilding, but like a sandcastle, our foundations are being swept away by each incoming wave, and so we’re rebuilding and not gaining any ground.
    We need the perfect storm of some excellent drafts, some smart FA pickups to bolster the roster, and less of the SOP of conversion of salary to prorated bonuses. We’ve cut quite a bit of roster deadwood, so at least that’s a plus. The OL looks like it may finally start to improve, we have some exciting young players (Bell, Wheaton), and Ben is still the franchise QB. If we can infuse the defense with speed and youth, then the arrow should point back up again.
    All that noted, this coming year would not surprise me if we went 6-10 or 10-6.

  • HiVul

    In my opinion the Steelers, like most teams, simply rebuild a little bit every year unless they’re absolutely not competitive. 8-8 isn’t 4-12. They rebuilt the offensive line over the course of a few years, and now you could say they’re rebuilding the defense. We’re fortunate that we can compete while making significant changes

  • alex

    we really shoulda been 10-6 last year, cause we lost Pouncey and Foote day 1, and really didnt have a starting RB till game 4, thus the 2-6 start..

    but i do hear you on the holes…then there is ST!?

  • James Kling

    True, we could have been 10-6. Should have been? Hard to say. I thought Pouncey’s replacements did well.
    ST. I just threw up in my mouth a little.

  • You’ve used three different criteria for rebuilding to make your point: Deliberate change, veteran purge for cap reasons, and lack of a franchise QB. Without a clear definition of the word, any discussion on the matter is meaningless.

    This team still has core talent, absolutely, But they are also the thinnest Steelers team I have seen in more than a decade, with no true depth at RB, WR, DE, OLB, or CB. If that situation is not a result of deliberate, artificial change, I think we need to be asking some serious questions about the front office.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Well, that gets to the heart of the problem with this discussion, because everybody has a way they see it. I interpret the rebuilding of a franchise as a deconstruction of the roster and a purging of the cap to start over, and I take this as what people generally mean when they say that the Steelers *should* rebuild, so that was the basis of my article. The Steelers only cut four players and appear set to replace just three starters on offense and defense, at least one of them from within, so I really can’t buy the rebuilding argument.

  • Matthew Marczi

    For a team that historically builds through the draft, having holes before the draft is…not surprising. And each description that I’ve given of rebuilding paints a broader picture of what I take to mean when I hear the term applied in this context. They’re not mutually exclusive and they certainly don’t contradict one another.

    I gave examples of what I characterize as rebuilding in the article, with the Seahawks, the Colts, and the Buccaneers.

  • Let’s be real here. Like you said, this is a team that historically builds through the draft. It is also a team that historically takes 2-3 years to plug most draft picks into starting roles. When can you remember ever having this many needs in one draft? The reason why, as you said above, we are looking at up to 4 or 5 possible new starters this yearis because they have failed to stock their depth through the draft in recent years. They have either missed on picks or let players move on for more money. There is no ignoring that. And that is not the norm for Steelers football.

    No, things are not as bad as they were in Seattle or Tampa Bay, but those are extreme cases. They don’t exclude us from calling a spade a spade when it comes to the Steelers.

  • I agree they aren’t doing that level of rebuilding, but the definitions are relative. The starting turnover isn’t all that significant, with Sanders, Woodley, Kiesel, Clark and possibly Cotchery being the key departed starters, but this is a deep that has always prided itself on its deoth and ability to plug in up and coming players when Starters go out. We don’t have that right now.

    We have are in a position where we need guys that can contribute at RB, WR, DE, OLB and probably CB from the draft, as well as other depth positions. Any time the Steelers are looking at needing that much from a single draft, I call it rebuilding.

  • Pete Johnson

    They aren’t rebuilding, they are half rebuilding. Which is even worse.

  • Kenneth Wilt

    Sorry, but that is still rebuilding to me. We could have brought back so many of these guys when we got rid of them. In fact, as best as I can tell every single one of the “older vets” still wanted to play when the were removed.


    I get your point on defining it…the issue as I’ve pointed out earlier…PIT still has one of the top QBs in the league…that gives you a chance of making the playoffs every season. Moves (such as even entertaining the return of JH) are made with that mindset.

    IMO PIT is rebuilding the DEF as they’ve turned over the best players on the team. They are retooling the OFC to get younger more athletic players to support Ben.