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mesaSteeler
03-06-2012, 06:25 PM
Younger Steelers roster could create leadership gap
http://communityvoices.sites.post-gazette.com/index.php/sports/bob-smiziks-blog/32158-roster-purge-leave-leadership-vacuum
Tuesday, 06 March 2012 13:30
Written by Bob Smizik
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Native Pittsburgher and long-time NFL insider Len Pasquarelli weighs in on the recent purge of Steelers veterans. Their production won't be missed but their leadership might.


By Len Pasquarelli, The Sports Xchange

Before some of my Pittsburgh homeys begin queuing up on the Fort Pitt Bridge for a swan dive into the frigid Monongahela River, or start to bawl uncontrollably into their Terrible Towels, a dose of reality.

Let’s consider for a moment the agonizing salary purge the cap-strapped Pittsburgh Steelers were forced to instigate before the league year officially commences on March 13. Difficult as it was for team president Art Rooney II, general manager Kevin Colbert, coach Mike Tomlin and cap guru Omar Khan to essentially transform the Steelers into a real-life version of “No Country for Old Men,” the only 2011 full-time starter among the half-dozen guys who were whacked was inside linebacker James Farrior, 37, and a 15-year veteran.

At least in terms of football production, certainly of late, the Steelers didn’t lose a lot. The scrap heap roll-call: Hines Ward, who holds all of the franchise records for a receiver, but who will be 36 later this week, and was coming off a season in which his 8.3-yard average was the lowest in the league, by a yard, for any wideout with at least 40 catches. Farrior, 37, arguably the greatest free agent addition in franchise history, but whose 78 tackles last season were his fewest since joining the Steelers in 2002. Aaron Smith, perhaps the league’s finest pure 3-4 defensive end in the past 10 years or so, but who appeared in an average of 5.0 games the past three seasons because of injuries.

The rest: Bryant McFadden started one game in 2011, lost his starting job to a guy (William Gay) who had himself lost it a season before, and became a cornerback afterthought after the first month of the year, buried on the depth chart below a bunch of younger players. Guard Chris Kemoeatu, playing behind a couple of undrafted free agents in the rotation, was reviled by the ‘Burghers because of his maddening penalties. Arnaz Battle was a solid special teams player, but also a No. 6 wide receiver who totaled zero catches during two seasons in Pittsburgh.

So before anyone wraps himself in black and gold sackcloth, and begins to erect a Wailing Wall on the North Side to mourn the exits of some of the finest men to ever wear the Steelers’ uniform, perspective should take over. The dearly departed will certainly be missed in a city that prides itself on its sense of history, but not as much on the field as many suspect.





The same people who 20 years ago chastised the sainted Chuck Noll for hanging on too long to many players, guys whose Hall of Fame legacy often overshadowed for the legendary coach the fact they simply couldn’t play anymore, might do well to recall that lesson. And, yeah, in my hometown, there are still enough aging fans to remember that period. In the age of the salary cap, a constraint with which Noll didn’t have to deal, such decisions are more driven by economics. That doesn’t, however, make them any easier, just more pragmatic.

Doubtless, it will be off the field, in the sanctuary of the locker room, where the deficit will be more pronounced and keenly felt. The Steelers, probably through the draft more so than free agency, a market in which Pittsburgh officials rarely even window-shop, will find and develop replacements for the roster. But in terms of leadership, well, the spackling job will be tougher.

Farrior, Hines and Smith were among the most respected players in the Pittsburgh locker room, arguably in the entire league. Toss into that group, at least in local terms, backup nose tackle Chris Hoke, forced to retire because of a neck injury. That’s a pretty solid nucleus of leadership. Indeed, Tomlin on occasions in recent years termed Farrior “our unquestioned leader.” Good friend and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Ron Cook last week pointed out that Tomlin typically turned to Farrior to deliver the final words the Steelers heard before leaving the locker room.

Even before he samba-ed his way into the country’s consciousness, Ward was always a media magnet in the locker room, a player who spoke with perspective, and whose candor was much appreciated by the scribes. Ward was hardly beloved in NFC precincts like Baltimore or Cincinnati, but most players around the league ceded him grudging respect. Smith was a quiet presence, but always gracious with his time. Even for those who wandered into the locker room maybe three or four times a year, there was always a special feeling, because there resided there some longtime “go to” guys, from whom you could elicit more than just the usual canned rationalizations.

Well-described breakdowns of game situations, not the usual trite bromides, were the norm from players like Ward and Farrior.

No one cares, nor should they, that things won’t be the same for the media. But by extension, the environment won’t be quite the same for the “Stillers” (yeah, that’s Pittsburgh-ese), either, and that’s the far more critical loss for the franchise.

Leadership and chemistry have long been regarded as overrated buzz-words in the NFL. But for years, we’ve operated under the theory that those intangibles, along with football smarts, accounted for a couple wins per year for the franchises that had guys who possessed the attributes. No hard, empirical evidence, of course, just an observation gleaned from three decades of hanging around locker rooms.

The Steelers in 2012 may put the theory to the test. They will find players to step into the vacancies created by the veterans who’ve left. The Steelers always do. There is probably sufficient young talent to again challenge for a playoff spot. Finding players to step into the leadership void created by the offseason overhaul, though, will be markedly more difficult.

steeltheone
03-06-2012, 06:34 PM
They will be missed at times....But this was the time!

Curtain_of_Steel
03-06-2012, 06:56 PM
Here come the articles, yes we would be so much better with players with their walkers. Yes we should keep them because they can lead as a 5th Wr being carried on a team, or a DE that stole 2 years of money and couldnt hold his own.

These clowns don't think the opposite is true? Lead by example and know when to hang them up, not stay on for a paycheck. What veteran example does that set?

6RingsAndCounting
03-06-2012, 07:14 PM
It happens with every team. You lose your leaders, and most teams take a significant amount of time to recover, but not the Steelers. They have a knack for new people stepping up. We aren't like any other organization, the older players groom the younger players to take over their role when they are gone. Now it is time for the younger guys to step up, and it's time for Ben to take a new leadership role. We still have Keisel and Clark on defense, and now Woodley, Timmons, Heyward, and Hood have to take on the role. On offense I can see Brown stepping up.
In short, I don't think we have any problems.

tony hipchest
03-06-2012, 07:23 PM
james farrior and his leadership will be missed the most. the ravens looked better when ray lewis was on the bench last season, but they never make it to the AFCC game w/o him.

hines still has a productive year in him. jerry rice, art monk, chris carter, and tim brown all had productive seasons after they turned 35 yrs old. if moss and TO got their heads staright, they could as well.

Steelerfreak58
03-06-2012, 07:57 PM
There are vets in that locker room that will lead its not that young of a team.

wyn50
03-06-2012, 08:05 PM
They have enough vets on both sides of the team to do well.

StainlessStill
03-06-2012, 08:16 PM
The Colts are losing Peyton Manning, Pierre Garcon, Reggie Wayne and possibly Dwight Freeney. That's their ENTIRE core of their successful 12+ win seasons this whole entire decade.

Yet, they want to write an article on how we were TOO OLD to contend last season and then switch around and say we're jumping off bridges with our Terrible Towels when we still have Roethlisberger, Miller, Polamalu, Woodley, Harrison, Timmons, Keisel, Clark, Taylor and Hampton still on the menu, nonetheless, Cotchery when he signs.

We're fine. I'm excited for the 2012 season.:tt04::tt04:

steeltheone
03-06-2012, 08:33 PM
The Colts are losing Peyton Manning, Pierre Garcon, Reggie Wayne and possibly Dwight Freeney. That's their ENTIRE core of their successful 12+ win seasons this whole entire decade.

Yet, they want to write an article on how we were TOO OLD to contend last season and then switch around and say we're jumping off bridges with our Terrible Towels when we still have Roethlisberger, Miller, Polamalu, Woodley, Harrison, Timmons, Keisel, Clark, Taylor and Hampton still on the menu, nonetheless, Cotchery when he signs.

We're fine. I'm excited for the 2012 season.:tt04::tt04:

Well, we were wild card loser's to Tim Tebow....Is there some truth to that?

tony hipchest
03-06-2012, 08:47 PM
Well, we were wild card loser's to Tim Tebow....Is there some truth to that?sure woulda like to seen clark, deisel, hampton, and starks play that whole game.

after that loss, ryan clark said that the steelers defense had practiced and focused on every scenario that the broncos offense could possibly beat them with (except one).

he said they were as prepared as a team could be except vs one situation-

the steelers never gave second thought that the broncos could possibly beat them with tebow throwing for 300 yards. :doh:

they were ill prepared.

that has to do with coaching from the top on down, not player leadership.