The Pittsburgh Steelers have experienced an uncommon amount of roster turnover over the last few seasons, which just so happened to coincide with consecutive years without a postseason berth.
As a result, we’re finding an unusual amount of new faces in the starting lineup compared just to last season, when the season before already introduced several new starters.
The rapid turnover in successive seasons certainly has much to do with the organization’s personnel management over the previous years. Time, as always, came out the victor as they felt the ramifications of trying to hold together a championship roster that could no longer perform like one.
Considering how different the projected starting lineup for the start of the 2014 season is from just two seasons ago, I think it would be interesting to revisit the roster from the 2010 season—the last time the Steelers competed for a championship—to see how different this new team truly is.
“Former Steeler” is a title that Brett Keisel currently holds, but in truth, it’s not set in stone that it remains that way in July or August—or perhaps even into the season in case of injury, assuming he keeps himself in shape.
The Steelers have at their disposal a variety of new and young talent along the defensive line this year, but that fact also necessarily coincides with a significant dump of talent and experience from last season.
If the Steelers are halfway through training camp, let’s say, or perhaps into the preseason, and defensive line coach John Mitchell finds that he doesn’t have the depth that he believed he might have, then it’s more than conceivable that, on the strength of his advice, the team gives a call to Keisel to see if he’s changed his mind about playing for veteran minimum.
I don’t suspect, however, that he would be getting his old starting spot back, which is now occupied by one of the faces of the team’s future on defense, fourth-year defensive end Cameron Heyward.
The son of Ironhead is coming off a breakout season in which he cracked the starting lineup and made 12 starts en route to racking up the second-most sacks on the team behind outside linebacker Jason Worilds.
Heyward has had to prove flexible over the years, frequently playing on both the left side and the right side in the same game to accommodate whichever starting defensive end he was replacing for a series or two.
But the coaching staff has settled him down into the right, or playmaking, side of the defensive line, where Keisel made a name for himself during the back nine of his career, even earning a Pro Bowl bid, and declining another as an alternate.
Keisel has been on three Super Bowl squads—though not yet a starter during the 2005 season—and has proven his championship pedigree, a resource the Steelers are finding that they lack of late as the remnants of their victorious past slowly whittle away year by year.
The young Heyward would seem to have the makings of a potential cornerstone for the next championship generation, but he certainly can’t do it himself.