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.
We will continue with the offensive line, which has seen about as much change as any position over the past few years.
It was no easy task trying to replace Alan Faneca’s spot at left guard, and to be quite blunt, they’ve still yet to do so. Chris Kemoeatu, the starter at Faneca’s old position the last time the Steelers squared off for a championship, certainly wasn’t the answer, even if he’d had his moments.
In fact, he may have been the best lineman on the team the last time the Steelers did actually win the Super Bowl, in 2008. He was, at least, the best interior lineman. But he wasn’t the same player two years later, in part due to injury.
Despite starting all but one game at left guard for the Steelers in 2010, Kemoeatu’s year could hardly be described as anything less than poor. He was a penalty magnet, drawing a total of 16 flags on the season, four of which were declined or offset.
His pass protection in particular was quite wanting, as he struggled especially to diagnose the free rusher and gave up an alarming amount of pressure on the season. This reared its ugly head during the Super Bowl itself, when his pressure allowed helped force Ben Roethlisberger into tossing an errant pass that led to an interception.
Even his strongest asset, his run blocking, was inconsistent at best the last time the Steelers found themselves legitimate contenders, and it wasn’t before long that injuries took their toll on Kemoeatu’s career.
Starting at his old spot now is certainly the best left guard the Steelers have had since Faneca, and a player who had had plenty of time starting in place of Kemoeatu while he was out with injuries: Ramon Foster.
Even though Foster himself was in the starting lineup in the last Super Bowl, he was never viewed as a true starter until this past season, after the Steelers re-signed him to a new three-year contract. He delivered, putting in his best season to date and perhaps the best season of any lineman on the team last year—even better than David DeCastro’s season, in terms of consistency.
As previously mentioned, Foster had been subbing for Kemoeatu since the former’s rookie season in 2009. He replaced Kemoeatu in the one game he’d missed in 2010, but when Kemoeatu returned, he was asked to replace Trai Essex at right guard late in the year, which is how he found himself in the starting lineup in the Super Bowl.
Unfortunately for him, it was a game to forget for most of the offensive line, and most of the team in general. But he, along with DeCastro and Maurkice Pouncey, make up an interior offensive line that can help get the Steelers back to that stage.