Season Of Change – Speed From All Corners

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.

If you missed this past offseason’s most significant change from last year, it may be because it simply zipped right by you.

That’s because the Steelers have worked to significantly upgrade their overall team speed over the course of the past half year since the end of last season.

It started with free safety Mike Mitchell, the team’s big ‘splash’ in free agency, who will be taking over for one of the most speed-deprived spots on the defense a year ago previously occupied by Ryan Clark.

They also added wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey in free agency, one of the fastest receivers to ever enter the league, even if he’s never fully put his skill set together and certainly isn’t guaranteed a roster spot.

Then came the draft, and that’s where the major injections of speed have come from. The headliner in this category is, of course, running back/wide receiver Dri Archer, who was the fastest player in the entire draft.

Seeing him on tape is like watching a cartoon, where he’s being fast-forwarded through the scene and everybody else is moving in real time. His speed could be lethal especially in the return game, but he will also contribute on offense.

First-rounder Ryan Shazier was the fastest linebacker in the draft, and one of the fastest linebackers in the league now, and he will start immediately. In terms of pure velocity, he is a huge upgrade from last season.

The other two picks in the first four rounds, Stephon Tuitt and Martavis Bryant, are also no slouches in the speed category either. But the forgotten headline here is the players taking on bigger roles from last season.

People like Shamarko Thomas, Markus Wheaton, and Antwon Blake are expected to contribute more in 2014, and all three boast tremendous speed. They’re not new pieces but two were rookies and one was a second-year player and a late addition to the roster. They should be significantly improved this season.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • steeltown

    We had the need for speed. The sooner these players get acclimated and comfortable with the scheme the better. The 2nd yr guys especially will be interesting to watch, namely J.Jones and Wheaton

  • joed32

    Richardson isn’t slow either as 4.3.

  • srdan

    I wonder how shrunk hte defensive playbook was last year due to the lack of speed and Polumalu playing LB.

  • steeltown

    I think he was around a 4.4 at his pro day, but yes no slouch none the less. He also had a fantastic vertical at 38 1/2, had he been invited to the combine both of those numbers would’ve been in the top 5 or 6 of that position

  • joed32

    He has good size too, I hope he can become a starter in the next year or so.

  • Lil Smitty

    I would think that LeBeau had to create another section to try to employ that formation and hide the deficiencies, which could have created the confusion we saw with even the veteran players.


    I’m looking for improvement on DEF this year, obviously much faster in the middle and back end, and hopefully back to an attacking, fast, championship caliber DEF in 2015.

  • steeltown

    Me too. More so im hoping C.Allen stays healthy this season. He always seems to find his groove and look like a budding star, but his progress is then usually derailed by a minor nagging injury. He always finishes strong though which is encouraging.

  • Biggie

    As Troy mentioned Speed isn’t everything, but those we have added with the speed also have talent. One thing speed does do is help make up for mistakes. Once technique is in place skies the limit. We’ll see what we have in TC.

  • charles

    Shamarko speed?

  • steeltown

    4.42, fastest Safety at the ’13 combine

  • charles

    We have had this discussion twice before Steeltown. Tell me if this is right or wrong: Gronk getting off the ball quicker than Shamarko, resulting in Thomas not covering but chasing, resulting in Gronk fresh off serious injury catching 3 tds, resulting in Patriot blowout, resulting in very limited further playing time going forward for Shamarko. I am not saying shamarko is no good, but his 40 yd dash is not the the same as game speed.

  • steeltown

    Yes, of course they are totally different. But we’re talking about a rookie going up against arguably the best pass catching TE in the League (not named Jimmy Graham)

    In that game, no one could stop anyone, but I dont remember Gronk having 3TDs. They actually had Jarvis Jones covering Gronk on his lone TD reception.
    Also, as previously mentioned, Shark lost playing time after he suffered injury and missed two games, after that W.Allen pretty much played the majority of the qtrs packages

  • steeltown

    Yes, I agree they are not the same thing. But, we’re talking about a rookie going against arguably the best pass catching TE in the entire League (besides J.Graham) In that game, no one could stop anyone. I don’t remember Gronk catching 3TDs, I think he had 1 TD in that game and that was the result of Jarvis Jones having to cover.

    Also, Shark lost playing time following his injury (missing two games) after that W.Allen played the majority of the qtrs. packages.

  • Yiz

    The only thing I would add Steeltown, is that Shamarko ran a 4.38 at the combine

  • joed32

    You’re right, only one TD for Gronk.

  • steeltown

    Yep, with Jarvis Jones covering