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.
Ryan Clark helped the Steelers get back to and win the Super Bowl in 2008 after safety Chris Hope cashed in on his own successful Super Bowl run with the Steelers in 2005. Clark helped get them to another one in 2010.
But he was also a big part of the Steelers’ defense dovetailing last season to a middling unit after a nearly unbroken string of dominant performance across the past decade, and that’s why he’s now in a Washington Redskins uniform.
The Steelers are hoping that they’ve found their next Ryan Clark—the Ryan Clark of a few years ago, of course—in their biggest free agent signing in years, free safety Mike Mitchell.
Mitchell has seamlessly entered the starting lineup with the first snap of the offseason, even if his running mate, Troy Polamalu, has yet to show up.
The Steelers will be depending upon him to provide seamless defense at the back end the way Clark once did in order to help plug the holes that lead to big plays through the air in what has become a leaky vessel last season.
Clark was never the fastest free safety, nor did he have the innate ability of an Ed Reed to read the angles and know where the ball would be if a pass or catch wasn’t executed perfectly.
But he understood the game, and he was a football player. It’s no surprise that he became a leader on what was indeed a championship defense.
Mitchell may perhaps be more physically gifted than Clark, with greater size, speed, and strength, but he will have to prove that he has the makeup of a champion if the Steelers mean to return to the Super Bowl in the very near future.