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 entered the 2010 season bringing back former Pittsburgh wide receiver Antwaan Randle El, which proved to be a one-year ordeal, after which he retired. But he began the season as the team’s slot receiver while the Steelers’ young rookies gestated.
It wasn’t long, however, before Mike Tomlin started working the team’s third-round pick, Emmanuel Sanders, into the offense, often in place of Randle El. By season’s end, the rookie had played about a third more snaps than the veteran.
By midway through the season—following the game against the New England Patriots, which saw plenty of receiver-heavy sets—Randle El’s snaps fell off sharply, typically to single digits, while Sanders began to see 30 to 50 snaps per game.
This carried on into the playoffs, where Randle El was virtually inactive, but that changed during the Super Bowl, when Sanders broke his feet and thrust the veteran back into relevance. He played 35 of the Steelers’ 68 offensive snaps, catching two passes for 50 yards.
As a whole, however, Randle El showed during this season that he was not the veteran presence the Steelers were looking for in a slot receiver.
They signed Jerricho Cotchery to replace him in 2011, who performed ably and admirably for the Steelers these past three seasons. His presence and leadership will be difficult to replace after he carried his 10-touchdown season to a new contract in free agency.
The Steelers are hoping that their latest veteran slot receiver can bring a championship mentality to the organization. Lance Moore has already won a Super Bowl with the New Orleans Saints, after all.
Early indications suggest that Moore is fitting in well, not only with the offense, but with the locker room. Markus Wheaton followed Cotchery around last season, and he is doing the same with Moore this year.
Additionally, thanks to his experience in Sean Payton’s offense, he faces a shallower learning curve adjusting to the new pieces being installed into the offensive repertoire this spring and summer. Will Moore and the Steelers be able to help each other get back to the Super Bowl in their short tenure together? That journey begins this September.