Even though the Pittsburgh Steelers currently project to field an opening day defense that sports just two players over the age of 30, the old and slow moniker still clings to the team as one of the great myths of the current NFL landscape.
The false representation is, obviously, due in large part simply to ignorance. James Harrison and Aaron Smith are gone. Larry Foote is gone. Casey Hampton and James Farrior are gone.
It’s now Jason Worilds and Jarvis Jones, Cameron Heyward and Cortez Allen. Worilds, the oldest of the group, turned 26 in March. Heyward’s 25th birthday is today.
Why, then, do the draft analysts still justify their mocks when it comes to the Steelers by saying that they have to get younger? The only area in which they are specifically looking to get younger would be Ike Taylor’s cornerback spot.
Because that just so happens to be the team’s most likely first-round target, it’s easy for evaluators and commentators to gloss over the fact that it generally doesn’t apply to the rest of the team on the defensive side of the ball.
The idea that the Steelers are old already has so much social currency behind it that it simply no longer needs to be justified or defended.
That’s why when ESPN covered the news of the team’s press conference about the clean bill of health for Sean Spence, it was presented through the prism of its importance vis-à-vis adding youth to the defense.
That is how the question was thrown to former center Jeff Saturday, and this was his response:
“Well, you’re looking at the oldest defense in the NFL, and at some point you need to begin to shift bodies. You’ve got to get fresher guys in, you’ve got to get guys who are going to be with you for the future”.
The only problem for Saturday is that the Steelers are only the oldest defense in the league by reputation. According to Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the Steelers starting defense as it’s currently projected shaves off nearly four years from the average age from 2011, dropping from 31.1 to 27.4.
Which makes the following comment about Spence’s potential to start even more perplexing: “That’s an exciting thing when a guy’s coming from an injury like this, especially when you’re talking about 24 (year olds) versus 30-year-olds pretty much everywhere else on the defense”.
As mentioned previously, the Steelers currently project to have just two players over 30 starting this year. If Brett Keisel is brought back, that would make it three—assuming he does indeed start.
The most glaringly ignorant aspect of this conversation? Though Spence is slightly younger, the man that he would replace, Vince Williams, is currently the youngest starter on the defense. Way to instill that youth movement.