A year after turning around a 2-6 start to the 2013 season to end on a 6-2 run, it seems that many are ready and willing to jump on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ bandwagon this offseason.
The moves they’ve made in free agency and the draft—including a recently uncharacteristic willingness to part with former key players—has only strengthened their resolve.
Jeffri Chadiha of ESPN is among those who believe that the Steelers are on the rebound and just about ready to compete once again.
According to his recent article, this is because the front office, and the team as a whole, has woken up from their complacent slumber to realize that, in order to return to competitiveness, they must reclaim their identity as the nasty, hard-hitting collective ready to cram the ball down your throat or rip you to the ground.
There are many reasons to explain why the Steelers haven’t made the playoffs since 2011, but the biggest is their personality: They’ve lost that physical edge that always made them so scary. A team that was long known for its ability to beat teams up both with a relentless running attack and a fierce defense had become too reliant on the arm of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. It also had succumbed to injuries and age, as inconsistency became all too common in the Steel City.
He goes on to say that “Pittsburgh’s offseason revealed that the front office isn’t blind to what has been happening”, citing moves such as the acquisition of LeGarrette Blount, the signing of Mike Munchak, and the drafting of Ryan Shazier and Stephon Tuitt as signs that the Steelers are moving toward getting back to what they do best. And he believes that they couldn’t afford to wait on these moves for much longer:
All these moves are critical because they speak to a sense of urgency. The Steelers were slipping into a rut that elite franchises can fall victim to if they’re not careful. The more they contended for championships in recent years, the more they lost sight of who they were fundamentally.
I don’t know that they were losing sight of who they were, per se. In fact, it could be argued that they were stuck on who they were in the past—as in, perhaps unreasonably holding together a championship roster that was now a shadow of its former self.
Consider just how many starters are gone from the 2010 season, the last time the Steelers competed for a Super Bowl. The entire defensive line is gone. Lawrence Timmons, the sole carryover among the linebackers. On the back end, Ike Taylor clings to a limb, while Troy Polamalu may have a few years remaining.
On offense, there’s Ben Roethlisberger, Heath Miller, and Maurkice Pouncey. Antonio Brown has emerged as a starter since then. The rest? All gone.
Regardless of how much of what Chadiha said is ultimately accurate, there’s no question that the Steelers required more of a jumpstart than usual. They seem to have been able to successfully turn over their roster this offseason, even if it takes a year for it to fully bloom and reach its potential.