After two straight seasons of equivalent wins and losses, it’s certainly no surprise that the front office of the Pittsburgh Steelers has been busier and more active than usual in their efforts to reshape a middling roster into a true competitor.
The past few months could be fairly described as a season of change amid the shifting fates of a franchise that had just been to the Super Bowl three times in the very recent past. It may well be that past success that has helped drag them down of late.
Of course, selecting late in the draft annually doesn’t help, nor do the big contracts going out to the players that helped you reach that success. But the true death knell has been an unwillingness to recognize when to let go.
The Steelers had hoped to hold together that championship core for a while longer, but the last two seasons have been the wake-up call necessary to introduce the wave of change that we’ve seen this offseason, designed to steer the organization back in the right direction.
One of the significant decisions that the front office made early on this offseason was to offer team-friendly short-term extensions to tight end Heath Miller and safety Troy Polamalu, each the finest ambassadors on each side of the ball a team could ask for.
The signings were highly beneficial for both parties. It might seem somewhat counterintuitive to the theory of change by re-signing 30-plus-year-old veterans, but the fact of the matter is that Miller and Polamalu are not your average players.
The timing of each extension was prudent as well. Both players were entering the final years on their contracts, and each showed in 2013 that they are still capable of performing for the stretch run after battling injuries.
Polamalu in particular has been dealing with injuries on and off for several seasons now. He missed much of the 2012 season, but he changed his offseason workout regimen for 2013, and was able to stay healthy for 16 games last year.
In Miller’s case, he had to show that he could still play after sustaining an ACL injury at the end of the 2012 season. The injury prevented him from having an offseason, and he continued to rehab into the first two games, but he showed in his first few games back that he could still play at a high level.
His performance gradually waned as the season progressed, but that could be attributed to the lack of an offseason and the fact that he was still rehabbing the knee. The organization is expecting him to have a more representative season this year.
The two Pro Bowl players have proven that they are both still part of the solution, rather than part of the problem. The ability to keep them in the group for a while longer as the team transitions into the next generation and the old faces continually fade away is a great asset for the Steelers to have right now. It provides an anchor, as well as a connection to the championships of the recent past. And when the time comes, they will be ready to pass the torch.