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.
Of the 22 offensive and defensive starters in base sets, the Steelers carry over just seven from the 2010 team that made a championship run if you include Ramon Foster, though three additional current starters—Antonio Brown, Jason Worilds, and Steve McLendon—have been promoted from within since then.
Ben Roethlisberger is the clear leader of the old guard on the offensive side of the ball, but Troy Polamalu may be the best all-around player on either side of the ball from that increasingly distant era.
Polamalu, in fact, made his eighth Pro Bowl team in the past 10 seasons last year, as he secured two interceptions—one returned for a touchdown—and forced a career-high five fumbles during his 11th professional season at the age of 32.
In fact, the only thing that has ever held Polamalu back in his professional career, at least beyond his rookie season, has been his own body.
The only years in which he has not made the Pro Bowl as a starter in his career have been when he missed at least half the season with injuries, those coming in 2009 and 2012.
The veteran appeared to find a new offseason strategy last year that worked for him, however, as he was able to stay healthy throughout the course of the year, not missing a snap the entire season.
In fact, he even expanded his role on defense a season ago, an invention birthed from necessity after Larry Foote was lost for the season. Polamalu saw significant snaps, particularly through the course of the second half of the season, lining up at the second level of the defense next to Lawrence Timmons, essentially playing linebacker.
Polamalu showed last season not only that he could still get the job done, but that he can still learn new tricks as well. While some defensive instabilities contributed to him being out of place at times, and his freelancing is far from foolproof, he remains one of the best in the league at his position.
Which is crucial for this Steelers team; after all, the last time Pittsburgh competed for a championship, it took a Defensive Player of the Year performance from Polamalu to get them there, even if he struggled down the stretch with a calf injury. A healthy Polamalu is a happy Dick LeBeau.