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.
The Steelers have had a different starting running back in their last of three Super Bowl appearance of the past decade. During 2005, it was ‘Fast’ Willie Parker, whose 75-yard touchdown scamper remains the longest rushing play in Super Bowl history.
In 2008, it was Parker again, but neither he, nor the offensive line blocking for him, could live up to their previous performance in the last Super Bowl. Parker would in fact have just one season left as he lost his job to the last Steelers running back to start a Super Bowl game, Rashard Mendenhall.
The recently retired back was always a bit enigmatic, and showed his limitations at times. For many Steelers fans, it became easy to root against him, if not for his constant spinning, then for some of his controversial statements.
But the truth is that he played behind some of the worst run-blocking offensive lines in recent team history and had some very productive seasons. In particular was 2009, his first year as a starter—a job that he inherited in-season. He went on to rush for over 1000 yards while averaging 4.6 yards per carry.
During the team’s Super Bowl season of 2010, he rushed for 1273 yards and a career-high 13 rushing touchdowns. He went on to add four more touchdowns during the team’s three postseason games, including two in the remarkable comeback victory in the divisional round over the Baltimore Ravens.
But he’ll be most remembered by many fans for his fumble during the Super Bowl on a perfect hit by Clay Matthews, who put his helmet right on the ball and popped it out. In truth, it was just one of 15 fumbles in his career (including the postseason), which was one of his biggest weaknesses.
That doesn’t seem to be the case for Le’Veon Bell, whom the Steelers are counting on to be the team’s next championship running back. In nearly 300 touches as a rookie last season, he fumbled just once, and he rebounded on his next touch with an explosive play that included hurdling a defender.
In just 13 games, Bell showed as a rookie that he does indeed have the heart of a competitor, which was no more evident during the second game against the Ravens. He would not be denied at the goal line, and did everything he could to cross the plane, going airborne and taking a shot to the helmet in the process.
Although the helmet loosening lost him the touchdown, I think he was able to accomplish something much more than a score during that one play in the eyes of his teammates, coaches, and fans.