Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Steelers Youth Will Pay Off

 

Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

 

The Pittsburgh Steelers have had consecutive 8-8 seasons, something we as Steeler fans don’t like to see. We see an 8-8 season as a down year and start worrying about the Steelers “rebuilding” . Let me tell you, the last two seasons weren’t as bad as some of you think. An 8-8 season would be a huge step for some franchises, such as the Browns, Jaguars, and Raiders. When you consider going .500 a down year, your doing pretty good. And let me tell ya, the Steelers are not rebuilding. If they were, the entire coaching staff would be gone, including Mike Tomlin. Ben Roethlisberger would be out. You would see the Steelers in the top 10 of the draft if they were rebuilding. The Steelers are simply “reloading” as some people like to call it. They are out with the old and in with the new.

The Steelers are basically replacing their aging veterans who are Super Bowl heroes with rookies and young guns who hope to be Super Bowl heroes themselves one day. Some example of these the past couple years are Jarvis Jones with James Harrison, Cameron Heyward with Brett Keisel, and Mike Mitchell with Ryan Clark. Unfortunately for us Steelers fans who do wish to host the Lombardi every season, reloading took back to back non-playoff seasons. Not terrible seasons, just no January football. However, the reloading is just about over, with only a couple spots left to fill before the Steelers will be contenders again, which will be next season.

The past two season have been down because we have unloaded rookies and young players into the starting lineup. If you didn’t know, rookies don’t always have success right away, especially when your playing in Dick LeBeau’s system or even Todd Haley’s to say the least. Their “growing” should be about done, and now with an understanding of their respective systems (offensive and defensive) they can start playing. All it takes is time. There is example after example of players on the Steelers that it just took time before they broke out. Jason Worilds, Keenan Lewis, Cameron Heyward, Antonio Brown.

Going into next season, the Steelers obviously have Ben Roethlisberger at the helm, and with him alone, there is always a possibility. He has All Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown to throw to probably until he retires. Heath Miller is coming into the offseason completely healthy and will be a major part of the offense once again. Markus Wheaton is coming into his second season with a question mark and has big shoes to fill, but has loads of potential. Lance Moore can pick up where Cotchery left off, maybe putting up more yards, but probably not as many touchdowns. Le’Veon Bell is entering his sophomore season with huge expectations and has many people excited to see what he can do with the workload. Will Johnson has had two seasons in Todd Haley’s system, and should become a bigger part of the offense. He fits into what the Steelers plan, Haley just needs to use him. Him and Bell can become a good duo.

The offensive line will be coming off a good end to the season last year. They played very well, and they didn’t even have Maurkice Pouncey. With Pouncey back in the lineup, he should be able to take this offensive line to the next step with the help of new offensive line coach, Mike Munchak. David DeCastro had a very good season last season, and only looks to build upon it playing next to Pouncey. Both could earn Pro Bowl appearances next season. Marcus Gilbert struggled at the beginning of the season, but he even played well down the stretch and is also in a contract year. Kelvin Beachum was the surprise, and is looking to solidify himself as a starting left tackle in the league.

The offense is full of potential next season. It’s loaded with youth across the board who all have experience in Todd Haley’s system and SHOULD start to show what their made of.

Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

To the defense, they were disastrous at times last season. At points, there were 3 rookies on the field at once, something unheard of under LeBeau. Shamarko Thomas is waiting in the wings, and actually pretty admirably for a rookie last season before he got injured. He should see more playing time this season and hopefully can show his Polamalu like instincts in his second season and grow in the system. Vince Williams must have the confidence of the coaching staff, or they wouldn’t have cut Larry Foote. That really shows faith for Williams from the coaching staff of the Steelers. He showed to be a reliable run defender, but has yet to prove he can play on third down or defend the pass.Jarvis Jones started as a rookie not because of injury like Williams did, but because he earned it training camp. He didn’t, however, have the season many imagined him having, only recording 1 sack. He did consistently grow throughout the season and had himself a heck of a performance the last game of the season against the Browns. If that’s a glimpse of what’s coming, Jones will prove his first round status to be a good one. Many believe, including me, that he will be a force to be reckoned with this coming season.

Cameron Heyward was mentioned before as a player who all it took was time before he started to show his true potential, and he did it in a big way last season. Now going into the season as the starter, I believe he will pick up right where he left off. Imagine what he could have done with an entire season as the starter. Steve McLendon was the scapegoat last season for the poor run defense. As many have proven to you doubters, McLendon wasn’t the only to one to blame. Remember, there were 3 rookies on the field at some points, not to mention Ryan Clarks struggled season as well. McLendon may benefit with a move to DE, but that would leave the Steelers without a starting DT, as Cam Thomas was brought in to be a backup. I am currently on the Alex Carrington bandwagon, hoping he will be brought in to start at LDE.

Jason Worilds going into the offseason with confidence from the Steelers organization should benefit him greatly, as he has rotted behind Woodley and Harrison for three seasons, and when he finally does get the chance to start, a first round phenom linebacker named Jarvis Jones is brought in. Look for him to put up double digit sacks next year.

To the secondary, they struggled last season. Ryan Clark was a part of the problem, and he is now gone, replace with Mike Mitchell. He should definitely be an upgrade over Clark, and can bring a different presence Clark never really brought, turnovers and sacks. Steeler Nation loves the sound of that. Polamalu is on his last leg with the Steelers, but still showed his greatness last season. Shamarko Thomas and Polamalu could possible even share playing time next season. Ike Taylor is in his last season with the Steelers, and he can’t get much worse than his season last year. Cortez Allen disappointed some last season, but guess who the last cornerback who broke out in their fourth year with the Steelers? Keenan Lewis. Allen has shown more his first 3 seasons than Lewis did, so this is a make or break year for Allen. If he makes it, he could make it in a big way. Maybe even a contract extension for him later this offseason.

Last but not least, special teams. The special teams unit played much better under special teams coordinator Danny Smith. I no longer cringe when the unit runs on the field. Mr Reliable Shaun Suisham will look for a perfect season, after only missing two kicks last season, both coming in one game. Long time long snapper Greg Warren is also returning, signing a 1 year contract. He has been a constant for the Steelers and will continue to do so. If it isn’t broken, why fix it, aint that right Greg. Punter is somewhat of a question mark. Brad Wing is currently under contract, and if he can get his act together, he has a booming leg and could stick with the Steelers. The Steelers tried veteran punters last season, and that didn’t really work so well. If they don’t like Wing, maybe a late round draft pick is in the play.

That’s why the Steelers will strive next season. Their roster is loaded with young talent who have now gone through the two playoff less seasons of growth and now time to show the potential they have flashed on a consistent basis. We saw it the second half of last season, now were ready for the whole season and back into the playoffs!

Let me know what you think about the article by leaving a comment! I love a good argument.

Follow me on Twitter: @combs_14

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Tags: Featured NFL Free Agency 2014 Pittsburgh Steelers Popular

  • bk

    I like your enthusiasm… I hope you are right, I just think there are too many question marks right now. If they have want to have any chance at getting another SB in the BigBen era, they need to have a lot better draft this year and add players that will contribute in 2015…
    I don’t think Jarvis Jones will be a good pass rusher, just not quick enough and I’m not sure Beachum is going to be able to hold up in the LT spot.. Shamarko is a good fit as a slot guy, but, how is a 5’9″ guy going to cover these huge TE’s? They have to find a bigger safety in the draft… I still don’t see where the pass rush is going to come from… Woriilds came on last year, Heyward a little, but, unless you can get to the QB, you are done in this league.
    SO, I think they need to target a big WR, a bigger S, a young TE, a LT, and as many pass rushers as they can in the draft.

    • Dee Dixon

      I watched the steelers last year and they became better as the year went on. I think
      will have a great year and make a playoff run. It says a lot about the teams character and heart to go 6-2 after starting 2-6. Talented coaching and roster. We will play the under dog role and bring home #7.

      • Levi Combs

        Glad to know someone shares my enthusiasm!

    • Levi Combs

      I disagree with the Jones comment. He is quick and shifty, and if he can develop a go-to move, he can be disruptive. He isn’t a bull rusher like Woodley, but smaller and quicker. Beahcum proved capable of holding down the spot, and with Mike Munchak as Oline coordinator, I believe he will help him continue to improve. Troy Polamalu is under 6′ and look at the hall of fame career he has had. Size doesn’t matter, talent and heart does. I completely disagree about the safety comment. They are loaded with safeties right now and will not look for one in the draft. Obviously I agree that Worilds and Heyward came on last season, and if they can translate those stats into a whole season while starting, pass rush won’t be a problem, and that’s not including Jarvis Jones, Mike Mitchell or any of the other linebackers. We do need to target a big WR, and it looks like the Steelers agree. Not a bigger safety. A young tight end may have to wait till the third round or later, but would be an early pick in the 2015 draft if it’s not addressed this season. Heath Miller will be around for a little longer, tight end may have to wait because of all the other pressing needs. I am a believer in Beachum, so no to a LT early.

      • Dom DiTolla

        How is tight end not a pressing issue? Look how horrendous they were without Miller last year. While I do believe Heath has a few good seasons left, wouldn’t it make sense to make their offense more explosive and add a play-maker for Roethlisberger to target besides Matt Spaeth, Michael Palmer and David Paulson?

        If their defense is going to be as terrible as I think it will, they’ll need more fire-power in the passing game for some shootouts because their receiving corps is thin and there is zero depth at TE.

        Of course, a two-down nose tackle or other defensive players (except cornerback) who won’t see the field for two seasons will be a better first round choice.

  • Eric Robinson

    I agree totally. I see all the bashers and doubters on here always complaining. We have holes to fill, but thats only because some of these guys need a chance. I think Wheaton will really be a pleasant surprise this year. I can even see Moye getting some catches this year. I too would love to get Carrington. MJD or Blount. I like both. I think we have the best chance at Blount. My personal hope is somehow the Steelers trade back maybe 5 picks and still get Dennard. I would be beside myself. In some of the latest mocks he seems to be sliding down. I like him even better than Gilbert. Brings that rough style Steeler Nation likes. Really excited about this season. Cant wait.

    • Levi Combs

      Thank You! Fans are always wanting to look at the bad things completely forgetting that the next wave of great Steelers are here and breaking out!

  • Glenn McQuiston

    If we could get that D-Lineman from Buffalo – said to be a good fit as a 3-4 DE – I would be satisfied. We did have a very bad season, but, fortunately it bridged two “NFL” seasons. From the midpoint of 2012 to the midpoint of 2013 we went 4-12. Our W-L trend was definitely “U” shaped over the past two seasons. Let’s hope the upswing from the second half of 2014 will continue.

    • Dom DiTolla

      Carrington went to St. Louis.

    • Levi Combs

      Things are for sure swinging up!

  • Dom DiTolla

    Keep in mind that the Steelers beat the following teams during the 6-2 run:

    Browns (x2)
    Lions
    Bills
    Packers (w/o Aaron Rodgers)
    Bengals

    Combined Records: 52-59-1

    Those were some real juggernauts right there. Also, I look around the league and there are plenty of rookies having success on both sides of the football. Of course, their coordinators highlight their skills by simply allowing them to contribute, or work them into the lineup in specialty roles before they are primed to take starting spots. Something I might add, which LeBeau and Haley have failed to do in recent seasons.

    Thisteam has major holes at cornerback, along the defensive line, a weak pass rush, a defense that is unable to force turnovers on a consistent basis, zero depth at running back, no red zone threat at the wide receiver position, no receiver with any experience above 6’ tall, Matt Spaeth is the #2 tight end behind Miller and Todd Haley is still in charge of the offense.

    Youth aside, if they even get a chance to contribute, I see another 8-8 season will be on the horizon for this team. Of course, if Big Ben gets hot at any point, he could nail down one or two extra in the win column to save if he saves the defense’s bacon.

    • Levi Combs

      Thanks for the comment. I understand your comment regarding the strength level of the teams they played, however, when you consider that at the beginning of the season, they lost to the Titans, Raiders, and Vikings, beating those teams you listed is an improvement. Am I wrong? When you go to losing to 3 teams picking in the top 11 of the draft to beating 2 playoff teams (and a beating is putting it lightly to the Bengals) that’s something to build upon. The offense and defense looked much better again better teams than they had lost to earlier in the season.

      You say LeBeau and Haley have failed to put rookies on the field? There were 3 rookies on the field at times last season for the defense, two of whom started. To the offense, David DeCastro, Mike Adams, Kelvin Beachum, and LeVeon Bell have all started during their rookie seasons the past couple seasons. Beachum, Decastro, and Bell all look like the future of the franchise. The Steelers have definitely done their best by putting the young guys on the field the last two seasons. Before that, they did let Keenan Lewis, Cameron Heyward, Cortez Allen and Jason Worilds rot on the bench, but they obviously learned from their lesson by the looks of last season, by getting the rookies and young players on the field.

      I do agree that there are major holes on the team, but haven’t they fixed many of them. Cornerback depth will more than likely come in the from of a first or second pick. The second half of last season, both Worilds and Heyward both broke out, recording 7 and 5 sacks respectively from the New England game and forward. They also added Mike Mitchell, who had 4 sacks last season as a safety. They thought they address the pass rush as well by drafting Jarvis Jones, aka “the sack master”. Although he didn’t have the season many imagined, he has a ton of potential as a pass rusher. They addressed the turnover situation by picking up Mike Mitchell, who had 4 interceptions last year. The top two cornerbacks in the draft are ballhawks, and both are serious targets for the Steelers. Who cares if there isn’t a receiver above 6′, Antonio Brown is 5’10″ and was in the top 5 for WR in almost every stat last year, yards, catches, yards after catch. A tall receiver is also a target for the Steelers early in the draft. There is no depth at running back, but the Steelers have had MJD and Legarrette Blount in for a visit. They intend on signing one. Defensive line is thin, but they haven’t neglected it this offseason. Your really complaining about a #2 tight end? Can’t expect an All Pro roster.

      Basically Im saying the Steelers have or thought they have addressed all your complaints this offseason. You also have to be patient. There is still biggest part of the offseason ahead, the NFL Draft, where we will continue to build upon the complaints you have. Things are looking up, just got to look past the past and look for the good things that are on its way for the Steel Town.

      • Dom DiTolla

        You mean the Bengals who got throttled by the Chargers on their home field in the postseason? Yawn. Last time I checked, they don’t give out trophies for half-seasons.

        In addition, all of those rookies on defense played last fall due to injuries and a complete lack of depth. Vince Williams would have rotted behind Foote had he not been injured in week one. Jarvis Jones was the only ROLB on the roster, so he was an automatic starter. Although Shark Thomas played, he was sent right back to the bench after Will Allen was signed.

        Hell the only reason Beachum ever got a shot was because Pouncey was hurt and Gilbert and Adams are complete wastes of space at the tackle positions. Heck, the biggest reason why DeCastro was taken off of IR in 2012 was because Willie Colon was hurt. And Bell was the only running back on the roster who was capable of touching the ball 20 times.

        I also doubt that cornerback help will come early, especially since Colbert declared this draft class extremely deep and the team’s penchant for passing on CBs in round one. Plus, I’m not sure why Gilbert and Dennard are fits in Pittsburgh. Their aggressive style will be stifled by LeBeau’s zone and catch-and-tackle philosophy.

        As far as addressing the turnover situation is concerned, how many of Mitchell’s interceptions were due to errant throws and constant pressure supplied by Carolina’s front-seven? Guy seemed to be a bench player in Oakland before he stepped in on one of the NFC’s better defenses.

        Having at least one receiver with size is important, especially one who knows how to use body-control. There’s a reason why Brown is much better between the 20s and not inside them.

        I’m complaining more so about Haley’s idiocy using jumbo packages and his love affair with using useless H-Backs and the fact that they have no long-term option to turn to behind Miller.

        Just because Blount & MJD have visited does not mean that teams with more cap space will try to woo them away. Moreover, they could earn more money, more playing time and a better chance to win elsewhere.

        Also, I wouldn’t put too much stock into the draft. Nobody remains from 2008 and 2009, and I have a hard time believing they will actually fill all of the holes I alluded to above.

        • TiVoMan

          Dom, I agree with SOME of your comments, but you are WAY too much “doom and gloom”. Lighten up, because I think the Steelers outlook this season will be brighter—assuming they have a FAIRLY good draft.

          • Dom DiTolla

            How is a 7-9 or 8-8 prediction “doom and gloom?” How is not believing that this team will make the postseason “doom and gloom?” How is not believing that this FO will fill and fix their enormous needs through the draft process “doom and gloom?”

            I’d rather be a realist than a blind homer.

          • Kimmy

            Ok saying you’re a “realist” isn’t super accurate there. You’re just drawing your conclusions based on stats and facts, so did Levi. You just happen to have come up with a different outlook and different conclusions. No reason to declare yourself the realist and anyone on the other side is a blind homer.

  • SteelCityIrish

    Expat yinzer here…
    I myself am guilty of looking at these last two seasons as “loses” (and blame myself! Lol…) But in all reality I remember those “rebuilding years” and I was worried looking back last season. I hope your predictions come true. I agree with Dom that certain spots need to be filled correctly, especially at the pass rush and turn overs. I am not the type who thinks the Steelers of old are the Steelers of now. Hell, the game ain’t even the same, but call it whatever you want. If the Steelers are reloading, I hope the hell they are firing all guns come Sept.

    S.C.I.