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.
Replacing a championship roster is no easy task. It not only requires possessing the right group of players, but also dictates having those players at the right point in their careers. James Harrison was certainly still a core piece of the championship puzzle in the 2010 season, the last time the Steelers were able to make a playoff run.
That year, he registered 10.5 sacks during the regular season, and recorded another four during the team’s three playoff games, including one in the Super Bowl. Harrison was certainly the least of the Steelers’ problems in that game.
Moreover, he was still is usual dominant self against the run, and still a turnover machine, forcing six fumbles and recording two interceptions. But he has more often than not only been a shadow of his former self ever since.
While still strong, his run defense suffered as his body continued to break down, and his pass rushing success came more and more in spurts. In 2011, six of his nine sacks came in just two games, for example. 2012 was just marred by injury to begin the season, and he only began to round into form late in the year.
By 2013, he was released, and the Steelers drafted his heir apparent in Jarvis Jones, who went on to start eight games at right outside linebacker as a rookie.
Though he may have cracked the starting lineup at intervals as a rookie, however, he is far from James Harrison, at least as a pass rusher, having recorded just one sack a year ago.
While he showed a propensity to make stops in the running game at times, and at others flashed the potential to be a playmaker, the now second-year player has yet to show that he can put it all together on the field when it matters.
Not that it’s surprising, of course, that a rookie doesn’t have a complete game. That is why the Steelers typically shy away from counting on rookies over the years.
But he is being depended upon to take a major step forward in his second season and going forward, and the team’s success is very much tied to his own success. In order for them to be a championship team again, they likely need him to be a championship-caliber pass rusher and complete outside linebacker.