Steelers Set Sights On New Championship Aspirations As Remnants Of Past Trophies Fade


I nearly wrote about this when it became official that the Pittsburgh Steelers’ veteran inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons was signing with the Dolphins, but after yesterday’s release of Greg Warren, it’s probably even more appropriate now: their roster, once rife with championship experience, is becoming barren in that regard.

I wrote an article last year talking about the group that I called the ‘08ers, the players who remained from the 2008 season, in which the Steelers most recently won the Super Bowl. That group has taken some hits lately. But the ‘05ers are now nearly gone entirely.

Closing out the 2014 season, there remained four members of that group, the 2005 roster, the players who had gone to three Super Bowls on this team and won two of them. Heath Miller retired in 2015; Warren’s release cuts their numbers in half. All that now remain are quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who evidently nearly retired this year, and outside linebacker James Harrison, who has already retired once and is rapidly approaching 40.

Not many more even remain from the 2008 championship team, either. Aside from Roethlisberger and Harrison, there is—William Gay. That’s it. That’s all that’s left. Matt Spaeth made it through the 2015 season, but like Warren was released with a failed physical last offseason.

Few even remain from the 2010 roster that made it to the Super Bowl and lost. In addition to the aforementioned Roethlisberger, Harrison, and Gay, we pick up only four more players. Offensive linemen Ramon Foster and Maurkice Pouncey were there, Pouncey as a rookie. Antonio Brown was in his rookie season as well. And then there was David Johnson, who like Spaeth, left and returned.


The Steelers used to talk of the pride and the value of having a roster full of players who understood what it takes to win a championship because they had literally done it. LaMarr Woodley leading up to the 2008 Super Bowl talked about how Harrison motivated him by showing him his own ring from the 2005 Super Bowl.

We don’t hear that anymore these days, and the reason is obvious. We are now in an era of the roster in which the wisdom gathered through the experience of winning a championship is no longer present—not outside of its two sages on offense and defense.

They can change that in 2017 by winning, and they have the roster that can get it done. The Steelers have gotten incrementally closer to returning to the Super Bowl in each of the past three seasons, reaching the AFC Championship game a year ago.

It would seem fitting that in the twilight of the Steelers’ most recent championship era they would be primed to renew their winning ways with a seventh Lombardi Trophy. And it would leave them with a new core of young winners around which to build another perennial contender.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi
Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • AndyR34

    And so it goes…there are few things as useful as experienced old hands that have “been there”.

  • Robert E Lil

    The Steelers are getting worse, not better.
    Talk of a championship in 2017/18 is ludicrous.
    For gamblers, the Steelers are a “clean-up” team….completely over-hyped. Bet against them early and often.

    sorry

  • blue

    Steelers better turn it around asap, PATS are catching up in Super Bowl trophies and we’re letting them.

  • Matthew Marczi

    How are the Steelers worse in 2017 than they were in 2016? Aside from the departure of Timmons, whom many were ready to ditch anyway.

  • Robert E Lil

    Well for one thing, the secondary is still horrible. And I mean HORRIBLE. William Gay graded out as their best corner last year. They’ve not done anything to address the secondary. And that high powered offense? They were ranked 12th in the league last year. They don’t have a weapon at tight end. Once more, if you look at the last 5 -6 games of the season (including the playoffs) the defense was getting pushed around. RGIII looked like a legit qb against that defense.
    I know everyone will yell at me but, time will tell. But this team is getting worse. They were incredibly lucky to get where they got last year…in a number of ways. Luck runs out

  • Chris92021

    You believe Burns and Davis will not improve going into year 2?

  • Jennifer Russell

    burns and davis are gonna prob get decent 2nd year jumps, hargrave too. IF we get anything like 2nd rounder production outta gholson then that would be pretty cool. I think we are close. Our pass rush is better too i believe…

  • Robert E Lil

    I believe they will improve.
    But that in and of itself doesn’t solve the problem of being one of the worst teams in the league at getting off the field on 3rd down and long. They have not done nearly enough to improve their biggest weakness (which is enormous) – the secondary. And every team in the league is going to “spread them out and throw the ball.”
    I’d also note that Ben is getting worse, not better. Particularly with his decision making (which baffles me).

  • Robert E Lil

    Well I for one give you credit
    for telling the fans what they want to hear

  • Chris92021

    Oh no doubt we sucked on 3rd downs last season (you can count on poor Lawrence Timmons being picked on like a fat kid on dodgeball day on every 3rd and 5+ on those crossing routes). As for Big Ben, I agree he’s not exactly Tom Brady when it comes to making the right throw every time. I felt the same way you do now last season until the Buffalo game and the Cincinnati game (the one in Paul Brown Stadium) when Big Ben played like hot garbage (3 INTs in the Buffalo game, two of them flat out mistakes even Landry Jones wouldn’t make) and the Cincinnati game where our best offense while being down by 14 points was Chris Boswell kicking a bunch of field goals. The reason why I changed my mind is this: no longer did we need Big Ben to play extremely well for us to win. We could win games ugly again, and that gave me hope. Sure, I was not happy about the AFC title game and we are not exactly Denver when it comes to creating fear in Tom Brady’s head but we have a good team. Yeah, you are right, we do need to be lucky. We need Le’Veon Bell to be lucky health-wise for an entire season. We need Martavis Bryant to be on the field for an entire season. We need Ryan Shazier to be lucky health-wise for an entire season. We need our defense to play like a real NFL defense on 3rd downs. So I agree we didn’t get better this offseason, we didn’t get worse either. I think the coaching staff and management are counting on us having most of our guns ready to go to win 12+ games to get the first round bye we desperately need to go far in the playoffs. This is a good football team that can be great if most of the stars stay healthy. Keep the faith!

  • Robert E Lil

    I hear you – wish I could agree. But if I were betting (which I do) I’d say of all the playoff teams last year, except for Houston the Steelers will take the biggest step back. Timmons was not the reason the defense was no good (heck…I think he had more picks than just about everyone)! IMO the biggest danger for the Steelers is that they think they are close because they got to the AFC Championship. I think that was a fluke. In fact, their history of losing to horrible qb’s coupled with the way Joe Flacco easily drove the Ravens down the field at the end of the game that the Steelers actually won – those things are still the problems the Steelers haven’t addressed. And they won’t – they don’t believe there’s a problem

  • Chris92021

    Not so sure I would say getting to the AFC title game was a fluke. We beat a pretty good KC team (a popular pick to make the Super Bowl after they got the 2 seed) without scoring a touchdown. Once again, we won ugly and I loved it. And yeah, we do have a terrible history against bad and/or inexperienced QBs. Heck, I am of the mind that Ryan Mallett still has a career because of us! But we’ve made some strides on defense; in Butler’s first season, we were 11th in points allowed and 18th in yards allowed. Last season, we were 10th and 12th, and the strides made after the Dallas game were monumental. I am expecting Heyward at age 28 to bounce back from injury, Tuitt at age 24 and playing for a new contract to be a stud, year 2 jumps for Burns, Davis, and Hargrave, and Shazier to stay healthy (a huge if, I know). Dupree showed flashes after he missed half the season last year and I am expecting him at age 24 to get close to or exceed a 10 sack season in 2017. Mitchell was not as terrible as most of us think and while Gay is a liability (I hope Brian Allen, Cam Sutton, and Senquez Golson do enough to make us cut Gay in preseason), this is a young defense. If Gay is out, that means only Mitchell and the ageless James Harrison are the only ones over the age 30 expected to play a lot this season. I am cautiously optimistic and while this defense might not exactly invoke images of the 2008 team, it will not be horrible again. At least I hope not!

  • Robert E Lil

    Well here’s hoping to the best
    But I’m betting against

  • Chris92021

    I don’t blame you at all!!

  • Robert E Lil

    Believe me…I am a gigantic fan…Huge.
    Not trying to be a buzz kill.

  • will

    what do you project the Steelers 2017 record will be?

  • Robert E Lil

    I think they’re a 9 win team.

  • ThatGuy

    I am excited to see what Bud can do with a full season.. I think he can hit double digit sacks this year, and we haven’t had one of those in a bit.

  • Matthew Marczi

    You said that they are getting worse. Then you listed a bunch of things that you think are the same. That is not worse. It is the same.

  • Robert E Lil

    As I mentioned over the last 6 games the team was performing worse on defense than they were during the middle of the year. They were already getting worse. And they’ve done nothing to address their enormous weakness – the secondary. So I do believe they will continue their slide – especially after NE exposed how horrendous that defense really is.
    As I also mentioned, Ben is getting worse, not better. Getting worse in big games no less.

  • steeltown

    They had 3 rookies starting on Defense last season, those players should only improve in their 2nd season. And the hope is we have Bryant and JuJu playing opposite Brown, instead of guys like Hamilton and Ayers. Those reasons alone should make them better.

  • Robert E Lil

    Ayers was a standout when he had the chance. He certainly didn’t hurt the team…quite the opposite.
    We’ll see if they get better. It’s just my opinion. That have a gigantic weakness that has not been addressed. Mike Mitchell isn’t getting better either.

  • Jason McDonald

    Last 6 games of the season before the Cleveland game where we benched half the team we surrendered 209,310,234,275,222, and 368 yards. The points allowed were 9,7,14,20,20 and 27. Doesnt seem too bad to me

  • Matthew Marczi

    They played a lot of those games without Heyward and Tuitt, and one of them even without Hargrave.

    You can also stop saying that “they’ve done nothing” to address the secondary, because it’s a literal lie.

    We don’t know if he’s getting worse or if he just had a worse season. It’s not like he had stable targets.

  • Robert E Lil

    I’d suggest reading Paul Zeise’s January 2, 2017 Post Gazette article Paul Zeise: “Poor defense against Browns a bad sign for Steelers’ Super Bowl aspirations”

  • Robert E Lil

    First of all – it’s just my opinion.
    Second – I really don’t care about the injuries – they’re part of the game and I’m sure the Steelers opponents had similar excuses. And I hate to bring up this argument because it’ll make Steeler fans nuts – but Heyward is not a world beater. I love him, but he’s not what fans think he is.
    The secondary is abysmal. They’ve not improved in that area. I don’t know what else to tell you. I understand they invested a 3rd rounder and another late rounder – I’m totally for that and I applaud that. But come opening day, the Browns will throw the ball 50 times (unless they average 8 yards per carry like they did last time they played but that’s a different topic).

  • Matthew Marczi

    Yes, when Johnny Maxey and Jarvis Jones allowed a big run, because Heyward’s presence doesn’t matter.

    The bottom line is that you said they will be worse and yet haven’t explained in what way they are worse. I believe what you mean to say is that they haven’t gotten better, and that’s a different discussion.

  • RASTA

    …and now we get friggin Watt to spell Deebo – upgrade…….drafted a slot-ready CB to compete against returning 3rd year Rookie 2nd round pick Golson – upgrade over the seems to have lost a step Gay…..VW in for LT – will be either the same or better……2nd yr “jumps” for 3 def starters – upgrade……Mitchell and Davis 2nd year together as. Steelers Safeties – imho Huge upgrade……Gay, Moats, and/maybe McCullers a phone call away – upgrade, as all are too slow for this new fast-paced, ball-hawking, super-young Butler/Tomlin D.

    Add to that, a deep bench of RB’s, WR’s, And OL to get us through the next post-season with a confident, healthy, and driven Big Ben; where they should keep their own D off the field for longer stints – upgrade

    Same Coaching Staff – same or better

    Driven to win this one for Mr. Dan Rooney (maybe go undefeated with this fairly inviting schedule?) – huge upgrade

    Steelers going to the Super Bowl!

  • Robert E Lil

    They will be worse.
    They will have less wins than they had in 2016.
    They will have less wins because the qb is on the decline (he is getting worse), because the secondary is as bad as it was last year with the caveat that NE put on tape how easy it is to attack them. They will be worse because they are starting the year without a threat at TE. Cleveland averaged over 8 yards a carry last time they played – and they, along with the Ravens – got better. The Steelers are going to lose more games

  • Robert E Lil

    I like your optimism and enthusiasm!

  • 2winz

    sorry but wow, by far you are the most negative person I have ever encountered lol just from the development of last years rookies we will already be better. Heyward and Bryant returning make us better than last year. You are entitled to your opinion, but wow lol have at least some optimism

  • 2winz

    they drafted 2 cb’s and 2 olb. they also added a free agent cb, how have they not addressed the defense?

  • 2winz

    He has made up his mind, don’t even try bro. the sky has already fallen in his view

  • Darth Blount 47

    I used to say “For Ben” or even “For Deebo.” But now:

    For Dan… man. FOR DAN. Dammit guys. Do. It. Now.

    #NoExcuses
    #Hero’sQuest

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    The way the pats set up for this upcoming season makes me think they chasing that undefeated record

  • Robert E Lil

    I Gotta show my wife this. She complains that I declare they’ll win the super bowl every year! And I’ve been saying it in years past….but they’ve peaked

  • 2winz

    haha i see what you’re doing.. you been jinxing it by saying they will win the super bowl every year, now you are reversing it so as to not jinx it, smart!

  • gdeuce

    the last two teams that they beat in the SB let them win too

  • gdeuce

    with this easy schedule?

  • “WC”

    Life, traffic jams, babies crying late in the night and you have to go to work, Idiots making tons of money and you know you are more talented but just don’t have the connections or rich relatives to give you a boost up.

    Beautiful women and handsome men getting just about anything they want on looks alone, religious differences and each one says their religion is the best, political leaders looking out for the bottom dollar and will lie, steal, and do anything possible to stay in office, even if they know what they are doing is wrong!

    ……then you have sports!

    Fans love of teams will always have them thinking they know what is best. Logically, it just isn’t so. Sure you can have some opinions that may be right at times, but mostly wrong most of the time, does not make you an expert.

    Even the experts don’t get it right, and they just keep rolling in the dough year after year and the fans just keep swallowing their opinions like buzzards eating nasty road kills in summer time on a dirt road somewhere.

    I’m not saying I’m better or worse for my opinions. They are after all just that. Nothing more, nothing less.

    I’m a life long Steelers fan from years ago, over forty years or so.

    Experience or experiences have taught me patience, hard work, a lucky break here and there, you just never know what the future holds.

    If you know so much, maybe you can overtake Nostredomus (excuse my spelling) in that category, because I sure as heck can’t!

    The point I’m making is lighten up folks. It will get better. If it did before it will happen again.

    Just have a little faith!

  • Steel Realist PAul

    I disagree they currently have the roster to win the SB. They sorely needed another quality, starter-level CB in FA, to get the help this year. They needed an ILB next to Shazier who could also play sideline to sideline, and they needed a TE.

    I don’t see how this roster beats the Patriots.

  • will

    I am projecting 11-6