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.