View Full Version : Steelers a Team In Transition? - a blog I wrote, please read!

02-26-2013, 02:14 PM
Hi Guys - I've posted some of my pieces here before. I'm an aspiring sportswriter and huge Steeler fan and I just created a Steeler blog. My first post was inspired by a quote on this board I read from SteelersCanada on whether the Steeler's way of the 90's is fading with the current crop of players. I've posted the text here as well as the link to the blog. It would be great if you guys would read the article, offer feedback and become followers of the blog! I honestly believe my stuff is better than the crap that guys like Dulac and Bouchette write. The blog is called 'MorningWoodley.'


“I’m sorry, the ‘Steeler Way’ of the 90′s is slowly fading with every draft.”

I read the quote on Steelers Fever Forums less than an hour ago, and I was immediately struck by how true it was, and also by how I had failed to realize it until just now. And then I was struck by the urge to write about it. Credit for the original statement, by the way, goes to user SteelersCanada.

I was privileged to root for two outstanding teams in the formative years of my life. One was the Yankees dynasty of the late 1990′s, being a New Yorker born, raised, and still. The second was the Pittsburgh Steelers of the 2000′s ; I liked the Steelers from an early age and by 2001, at the age of 11, I had officially skirted the hometown Jets and Giants for the black and gold. I have never regretted the decision for a second.

Though I wasn’t old enough to truly follow the Bill Cowher-led Greg Lloyd/Rod Woodson teams that appeared in three AFC championship games and one Super Bowl in the 1990′s, I have a sense of their style because they passed the torch to the tough-as-nails, workmanlike teams that I grew up watching.

Carnell Lake became Ike Taylor, an under-appreciated player whose career highlights include a crucial strip-sack of Mark Sanchez in the 2010 AFC championship game, and a fourth quarter interception in Super Bowl XL (for all the bashing of his hands, he hung onto that one.) Rod Woodson became Troy Polamalu, a man whose reputation requires no elaboration. Greg Lloyd gave way to James Farrior, a player who was an admirable emotional leader and Pro Bowler during the stellar Steelers seasons of 2004 and 2008. And Neil O’Donnell’s post was eventually filled by the rather large posterior of Big Ben Roethlisberger, who although has brought his share of drama, has also delivered two Super Bowl rings and a toughness that can’t be ignored. Yancy Thigpen became a nasty football player named Hines Ward, a 5’11″ missile who revolutionized blocking in the NFL to the point where his style was banned.

Under the direction of Dick Lebeau, these teams played nasty, havoc-wreaking football and fed off their years playing together as a unit. See James Harrison sprinting up the Raymond James Stadium field with a wall of defenders around him, having done this a million times in practice. Remember Joey Porter, hands on his hips, staring down the Indianapolis Colts huddle, moments before twice driving Peyton Manning into the turf and sealing a trip to the AFC championship game (or so I thought, until the Bettis fumble sent me into temporary catatonic shock.) We even saw it as recently as 2010 in the playoffs (and on the offensive side of the ball) against the Ravens, when Ben threw a laser on third-and-19, tie game, that Antonio Brown managed to pin to his helmet to set up the game-winning score after an earlier 14-point deficit.

The results speak for themselves: three AFC championships, two Super Bowl rings, a 15-1 record in 2004 and a lot of football games won over a 7-year span from 2004-2010. The hallmarks of those team were twofold: stout defense, always. And sometimes frustrating, sometimes effective offense, often followed by Roethlisberger inexplicably leading spectacular game-winning drives in the game’s waning moments.

Several of the pillars of those teams were cut before last season: Farrior, Ward, and the eternally underrated Aaron Smith, joining others who had departed via free agency or become salary cap casualties in past years, such as fiery defensive leader Porter and bruising offensive guard Alan Faneca.

This brings us to the 2013 Steelers, and a brief analysis of who these players are, where they came from, their current prospective state as a football team heading towards next September, and how true SteelersCanada’s statement on the changing makeup of this team is.

Given today’s free agency-driven era, it’s remarkable how many members of 2008′s exceptional defense are still wearing black and gold. This can be viewed in two shades: one is positive, as it can’t be that bad to have a unit of players who boast continuity and pedigree. Unfortunately, the second case is that all of these guys are five years older, and they have been playing the very physical game of football for all five of those years. For the record, despite their vast age and significant injuries, this unit overcame a shaky start to 2012 and eventually became a typically stingy unit by season’s end, yet again.

Ryan Clark played at perhaps the highest level of his career last season, but he is 33 and not immune to a significant drop-off in production. Troy Polamalu is a crapshoot at this point, perhaps due for a renaissance (there were encouraging signs at the end of the season) but also a significant injury risk. James Harrison is playing under similar cirumstances. Inside linebacker Larry Foote has always been solid but ultimately average; as a defensive leader, he will likely be back for another middling year. In the trenches, Casey Hampton may very well be a cap casualty, and there is a less likely chance Brett Keisel will join him. Both players showed signs of their age in 2012, and it’s all too realistic that this unit as a whole will be further diminished in 2013.

As for the defense’s younger players, Lawrence Timmons was the true bright spot in 2012, and he is both young and experienced enough to be considered a viable long-term heir to Foote’s current position as a signal-caller. Lamarr Woodley has come under fire recently for his perceived like of conditioning resulting in a nagging hamstring injury and lackluster play. Jason Worilds has shown all too infrequent flashes of ability, and it remains to be seen whether Sean Spence can make an impact after an ACL injury derailed his rookie season.

Ziggy Hood and Cameron Heyward will be called on to fill the considerable shoes of the great Smith-Hampton-Keisel defensive lines, a tall task that neither has proven he is ready for. Keenan Lewis, the emerging cornerback, must be resigned, even if at the cost of cuts of veterans such as Harrison and Hampton. He and (turnover machine?) Cortez Allen possibly represent the strongest pair of young cornerbacks the Steelers have had in years, if they can be kept intact. A young and talented safety must be added to this unit via the draft to ensure its continued success, as Polamalu and Clark reach their respective ends.

The outlook on youth and potential is rosier on the offensive side of the ball, where Marcus Gilbert, David Decastro, Mike Adams and perennial Pro Bowler Maurkice Pouncey are all fourth-year players or younger, and all drafted in the second-round or higher with the expectation of strengthening a perpetually shaky offensive line. That would be the offensive line which is charged with protecting Ben Roethlisberger, who was is still in his prime and was playing at the highest level of his career when a rib injury derailed our season in mid-November.

Things are murkier, however, at the skill positions. Mike Wallace is likely out the door, and with him one-third of the “Young Money” trio that we had hoped would make up our long-term receiving corps. Furthermore, many fans are disenchanted with the constant preening and celebrating of the talented young wideout Antonio Brown, who while capable of game-changing plays is also representative of what some view as the loss of “the Steelers-way of the 90′s.” The position of running back was a constant revolving door that yielded no clear-cut back of the future; it is my feeling that a veteran back such as Ahmad Bradshaw or Michael Turner should be pursued to complement Jonathan Dwyer, Issac Redman, a drafted running back, or any combination of the three for at least this season.

I support Mike Tomlin, still. I view him as a competent leader and effective motivator, although there are disturbing signs that their has been a permeation of lawlessness amongst his players (see Alameda Ta’amu’s drunken driving rampage and Chris Rainey’s disregard for domestic violence laws.) Brown’s assertion that there was a divide in the locker room last season, the ongoing Haley-Roethlisberger drama, as well as the recent emergence of an anonymous quote calling out Woodley all display fissures in the locker room that must be swiftly sealed by Tomlin.

His teams have shown a disturbing trend, particularly in 2009 and again this season, of blowing fourth-quarter leads in the final moments of a game, in contrast to earlier Steeler teams who took them. Debacles such as the Torrey Smith touchdown catch of November 2011 and the inexcusable losses in Oakland and Tennessee this season cannot be accepted going forward.

Starting in September, we will see if the current crop of players is capable of upholding the great Steeler tradition of hard-nosed, gritty football that was born in the 1970′s and recently revived by the teams of the late 1990′s and the 2000′s. It is on David Decastro and Pouncey to learn to pave the way for an effective running game like Dermonti Dawson, Alan Faneca and Jeff Hartings once did. It’s on Jonathan Dwyer to turn into a human battering ram like Jerome Bettis once was. Antonio Brown must develop the toughness that Hines Ward once embodied in a Steeler uniform.

Lawrence Timmons has to stamp this defense with his play and also develop into a vocal emotional leader in the image of a Farrior or Lloyd as the defense loses still more long-term players in Keisel, Hampton and possibly Harrison. And most of all, Ben Roethlisberger is the most vital piece of the puzzle in today’s pass-happy NFL. Together with Mike Tomlin, a sense of Steeler pride, leadership and nastiness must be infused into the 2013 edition of the Black and Gold.

Or else, as SteelersCanada, myself and many other members of Steeler Nation fear, the teams that we grew to love and revere may be taking a hiatus.

02-26-2013, 02:26 PM
thanks for the post! Very nice. I love the positive ending. I do disagree with the statement that Brown needs to develop the toughness of Ward. Not sure if that is possible or needed.

Thanks again! Very well written.

02-26-2013, 02:55 PM
First and foremost, I'd like to take all the credit for this blog post! You're welcome!

I'm just playin'.

In all seriousness, this was a well written, articulate and thought-provoking post. While I didn't necessarily agree with everything (we don't need or want another Jerome Bettis on this team) your opinions were written in a way that wasn't backed by bias or written out of frustration, but out of positivity and in some cases, facts. It's refreshing to read a positive post on this site and not the doom-and-gloom talk that has become so prevalent on here.

Keep it up, man. I love reading things like this.


02-26-2013, 03:22 PM
There are definitely some things I agree with and some things I don't. That aside this was an excellent post, very well thought out and written.

02-26-2013, 03:34 PM

02-26-2013, 04:37 PM
There are definitely some things I agree with and some things I don't. That aside this was an excellent post, very well thought out and written.

Exactly what I was about to write. Enjoyed your article, thanks!

02-26-2013, 05:55 PM
I'm all for positivity too.

But sometimes objectivity is twisted into negativity.