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mesaSteeler
08-10-2009, 07:36 AM
Half of Steelers' No. 1 defense from a year ago is 30 or older
Monday, August 10, 2009
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Peter Diana/Post-Gazette
http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09222/989870-66.stm

Steelers veteran James Farrior (51) works on coverage in an afternoon practice at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe.

Around the Saint Vincent College campus in Latrobe, they are forgiven if they mix some metaphors and crank out "You're in Steelers Country for Old Men."

The over-30 club not only is growing, it represents nearly half the Steelers defense. Their captain, Pro Bowl linebacker James Farrior, is 34 -- 35 before the Super Bowl. To his right is NFL defensive player of the year James Harrison, 31.

The starting three-man defensive line will be 31, 32 and 33 before they play their second game. Add nickel back Deshea Townsend, soon to be 34, and that's not a young defense.

It's merely the best defense in the National Football League.

And guess what? The Steelers have adjusted their unwritten philosophy along with it. Remember when guard Alan Faneca signed last year as a 31-year-old free agent with the New York Jets? It was said then that the Steelers just don't sign players over 30 to big-time contracts.

You cannot tell that to Farrior, who a year ago signed a five-year, $18.25 million contract. Nor to defensive end Aaron Smith, 33, who is in the middle of a five-year, $25 million deal. Nor Harrison, put on the books in April for $51.2 million over the next six years.

Throw in wide receiver Hines Ward, who at 33 signed a four-year, $22 million contract, and there is proof that youth is not the driving factor when the Steelers dole out money, production is.

"Thirty's the new 20," Farrior declared.

"Age is just a number for us," said Ward, who had his first 1,000-yard season in his previous four in 2008. "You can play until you're 35, 36. That's when you start hitting the dog years. But you turn 30, that's not to say your career is over.

"A lot of guys in the league are in their mid-30s and still producing."

Ward also said it was a myth the Steelers did not want to sign Faneca to a big contract at his age. Not only did they try, Ward said they were competitive.

"He signed with the Jets and the deal we were offering him wasn't off that much," Ward said. "The reason why he's not here, I don't know, you'd have to ask Faneca."

Players take better care of themselves now. First, they train year-round, most of it with their team in the city in which they play. Years ago, players disappeared from January to July, came to training camps for six weeks and that's when they got back into shape. Now, they report in tip-top shape. They also eat better, most of them anyway.

"I actually feel better now than I did coming in the previous year," said Harrison, citing the reason as not taking a break in his training routine this summer.

The Steelers have a few 30-somethings who would like to join Farrior, Harrison, and others with new contracts, players such as nose tackle Casey Hampton and defensive end Brett Keisel.

Eric Metz, Keisel's agent, flew in from Arizona to spend the weekend in Latrobe trying to move the process along.

"We're just kind of waiting, see what happens," Keisel said. "Obviously, there are a lot of great players who are up right now and I'm one of the older ones. So we're just kind of seeing what's going on, but I think both sides would like to get something done."

Every year the Steelers try to balance which players to sign to contract extensions, which to gamble on signing when they become free agents, and which to ignore. They want to keep the young talent moving in, but they do not want to necessarily move the old out if they're producing. That would be especially true with a team that won the Super Bowl and a defense that was so dominating with half-dozen 30-year-olds. It's a delicate dance both sides play, and one that is going on between the Steelers and Keisel at the moment.

"When you have a guy with his type of experience and what he brings to the table, I don't think age really should be an issue," Farrior said. "It's all about your production on the field. He produces every day, so you have to look at that also."

The Steelers have done that. As Ward said about the money they've paid recently to all those 30-somethings, "Especially in this organization, we don't just give out money just to give out money."
Ed Bouchette can be reached at ebouchette@post-gazette.com.
First published on August 10, 2009 at 12:00 am

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09222/989870-66.stm#ixzz0NmbvHQ6F

truesteelerfan
08-10-2009, 03:03 PM
I think we'll be just fine. Keep mixing in a few younger guys in there - like we're doing with Timmons this year- And if we can be very good....for a very long time.

Preacher
08-10-2009, 07:07 PM
Interesting spin on the article...

I guess that means the other half of the starters are still in there twenties, including our CB's and half our LB's and both safeties I think... You know, the ones in the positions where they have to run the most!!

tony hipchest
08-10-2009, 07:35 PM
You cannot tell that to Farrior, who a year ago signed a five-year, $18.25 million contract. Nor to defensive end Aaron Smith, 33, who is in the middle of a five-year, $25 million deal. Nor Harrison, put on the books in April for $51.2 million over the next six years.

Throw in wide receiver Hines Ward, who at 33 signed a four-year, $22 million contract, and there is proof that youth is not the driving factor when the Steelers dole out money, production is.

"Thirty's the new 20," Farrior declared.


"dirty deeds, done dirt cheap..." :tt02:

back in black. for those about to rock... we salute you. :salute:

RoethlisBURGHer
08-10-2009, 10:54 PM
As long as they produce, I don't care how old they are.

With age comes experience.

WeegiesWarriors
08-11-2009, 06:04 AM
I think they have a perfect mix of veterans and young talent. If they were too young they'd be writing about how inexperienced they are.

Galax Steeler
08-11-2009, 06:07 AM
It gos to show you if you have the heart look how far it can get you. I really like our defensive unit they have the heart and talent.

Ravnet
08-11-2009, 06:50 AM
There are enough youngish guys on the starting eleven to offset the age. Anyway, it's not like the older players are even remote liabilities.

Steel Head
08-11-2009, 07:28 AM
the only defender who I am worried that age might have caught up with him is James Farrior. He looks like he loses a step every year and linebackers need to be fast.