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Thread: The "Old Guard" Steelers and the End Of The Line

      
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    Default The "Old Guard" Steelers and the End Of The Line

    Inspired by a blog article from a major national sports media outlet and a post by a fan on another Steelers message board, it got me thinking about the grizzled veterans in the Steelers organization.

    The blog, which didn't state which team was the statistically oldest team by age, dubbed the Steelers the second oldest team by age in the NFL and mentioned a few players by name who are currently key to the Steelers fortunes. The blog also proclaimed the Steelers defense as the oldest unit in the league currently.

    Here's a look at a few key players on the team who could be considered anywhere from a little long in the tooth to those just hoping for one last glorious (and, hopefully, healthy) season. Each profile includes a commentary on each player and a forecast of how long each player can realistically be expected to fall into the Steelers plans.

    James Harrison- OLB- 33- 8 Years

    The beating Deebo has taken suggests he'll be lucky to play another three years, even though he has five years left on his current deal. Playing at the level he has for most of his career, he has surely paid a hefty physical toll. And Deebo is a man among boys. But the human body can only take so much punishment. Figuring in his age (James was something of a late bloomer in this league), he has more than received his share of abuse and recent trends point to a player in the early stages of physical decline.

    Ben Roethlisberger- QB- 29- 8 Years

    Ben is 8 years in at this point and he has taken a horrific beating in many of those years. The chances of him being an effective NFL QB beyond his current deal are not very good at all unless he can start getting more consistent protection. The Steelers have made strides toward doing that and his line protection, while youthful, is promising. But there's a lot more than needs to happen to give Ben the kind of protection that will allow him to be the caliber of QB he is now six years into the future when he again becomes a free agent. He should play out the rest of his current deal. But the Steelers would do well to have his heir apparent in the fold prior to then.

    Troy Polamalu- SS- 30- 9 Years

    He is due a new contract and will probably be the Steelers franchise player in the next off-season. But, whenever the Steelers and Troy agree to a new deal, the countdown shall commence. Troy won't be a Steeler beyond his extension. And his style of play precludes a long career anyway. Also, it's my contention that football doesn't make him who he is, so he may well surprise all of us and retire after the next Super Bowl win. Even if he was capable of doing it, I wouldn't give Troy much of a chance to be playing five years from now.

    Ike Taylor- CB- 31- 9 Years

    The way he plays the position will make Ike expendable before very long. If the Steelers manage to find two players capable of outplaying Ike, he'll likely be a salary cap cut. He's not a ball hawk and has always played soft in coverage. And he'll need all the help he can get if he loses a step because that is easily his greatest asset. He is currently the most valuable CB for the Steelers and it wouldn't be hard to believe he could play another five years. But if the Steelers do manage to retool their corners, Ike's days with the club may well be numbered unless he restructures his deal.

    Ryan Clark- FS- 31- 10 Years

    Clarkie has played his career as a miniturized version of Harrison. Dude is a devastating hitter. But being in the role he's in, it wouldn't be difficult to imagine Clarkie breaking down irretrievably at some point. He's in the fold for a while yet. Still, the chances of him being the same player he is now at the end of his deal aren't favorable since he plays with such a high risk/high reward approach to the sport.

    Brett Keisel- DE- 32- 10 Years

    With the emergence of Ziggy and the arrival of Heyward, Keisel's presence here may well be unnecessary a couple years hence at the salary he'll command. He might well still be playing at the end of his current contract. He just won't be wearing Black and Gold unless he joins the Saints. But if he is still getting after it when his current deal ends, it will be with the understanding that he'll be near the end of career and looking to play a specific role.

    Casey Hampton- NT- 33- 11 Years

    Casey has proved, time and again, that no matter what condition he is in coming to camp he is game ready from the word go. That's a priceless intangible. Yet, you can never tell when his body will betray him when he is as big as he is. He is under contract for two more seasons. Do the Steelers roll the dice that he will be able to play beyond that?

    Aaron Smith- DE- 35- 13 Years

    Smitty is the one player on this list who is almost surely gone after this season. He is definitely an injury away from calling it a career. The fact that he is still here is somewhat surprising. But he is still valuable so long as he can give the Steelers one last healthy year.

    Hines Ward- WR- 35- 14 Years

    Realistically, Hines won't play past the three years on his current deal. He'll be the "ceremonial" starter as long as he's a Steeler. But Wally, Brownie and Manny will control the show for at least the next few years, with Cotch just complicating things for opposing defenses. Hines will be yet another tool terrorizing secondaries for what's left of his career.

    James Farrior- ILB- 36- 15 Years

    I wouldn't have shed a lot of tears if Potsie had been a salary cap casualty this off-season. But he's still here. The over/under on his departure from the Steelers is two years. At some point in that time frame, Stevie Sly will be ready. Until then, Potsie gets to play the pivot for the Steelers and will do so ably.

    Player for player on this list, None will be with the Steelers (Ben excepted) beyond five years. It's my guess that most, if not all of these guys will be capably replaced within the next five seasons. I have no doubt that some of those replacements are already on this team.

    Still, the Steelers must continue to get younger and that will need to happen with each of the next five draft cycles. As this class of "old guard" Steelers rides off into the sunset, the front office must be vigilant to find the replacements in the draft who will be equal to the task of continuing a championship legacy.
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    Default Re: The "Old Guard" Steelers and the End Of The Line

    Good thread... I personally think Roethlisberger hasn't even peaked yet. Call me crazy, but I think the next 4 years are going to be great with him. He's also got a young solid offense behind him. The WR core, other than Ward is going to be just amazing to watch in these coming years. Brown, Sanders, and Wallace are freaking studs, and great finds (gotta give the scouts big time kudos for landing these guys).

    On the Offensive line, I also think once Gilbert gets up to speed, that the line is going to improve and mature and be much more solid in the coming years (starting this year I believe). I think Gilbert is going to be good. He's shown good signs in the preseason and I have a good feeling about him. Pouncy is a gem of gems, and I think you'll see the rest of the line gel around these guys and hold their ground. RB with Redmond and Mendy looks good too for a few years. Granted we all know about Arians, but we'll see what he does.

    Defensively, I do thing that Hood and Heyward will eventually transition in just the right time. I"m guessing we'll see Hood replace Smith (if that hasn't already happened), and in time we'll see Heyward move into Kiesels spot. Hampton and or Kiesel is obviously going to be needed past their current contract, and I wouldn't be shocked to see the Steelers go with another Defensive lineman in the 1st round of the draft next year and keep one of those guys until the fill in is ready. The secondary is also a major concern about 2 years from now, and they are going to need to do something there. You just can't replace a Troy (he's one of those once every 2 decade type players), and I even think Clark is hard to replace. Those two add some serious toughness to the secondary, and they aren't easily replaceable. But, I also believe having that solid d line is very important in today's game. If you put a lot of pressure on guys like Brady, Rodgers, Manning etc they aren't nearly as accurate.

    The LB core is halfway set with Woodley and Timmons signing this year. I could see Harrison being around to the end of his contract. We'll probably see Farrior ride off into the sunset next year, and then Sylvester will jump in. Is he the right fit? Unknown..

    I also think Butler can replace Gay or Mcfadden in the next year or so. That's the Steelers biggest hole at the moment. And finding and upgrading the corner is a huge priority as well. It's definitely going to get interesting in the coming years because that secondary is going to be a huge unknown.

    HOWEVER, I think this could be one of the best Steeler years yet of the past 10 years. I have this feeling that they are on a mission, and they know that their time is winding down. I wouldn't doubt they make it back to the Superbowl this year. And this time around THUMP whoever they play.
    Last edited by foslrock; Sep-01-2011 at 02:07 PM.

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    Default Re: The "Old Guard" Steelers and the End Of The Line

    Quote Originally Posted by foslrock View Post
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    Good thread... I personally think Roethlisberger hasn't even peaked yet. Call me crazy, but I think the next 4 years are going to be great with him. He's also got a young solid offense behind him. The WR core, other than Ward is going to be just amazing to watch in these coming years. Brown, Sanders, and Wallace are freaking studs, and great finds (gotta give the scouts big time kudos for landing these guys).

    On the Offensive line, I also think once Gilbert gets up to speed, that the line is going to improve and mature and be much more solid in the coming years (starting this year I believe). I think Gilbert is going to be good. He's shown good signs in the preseason and I have a good feeling about him. Pouncy is a gem of gems, and I think you'll see the rest of the line gel around these guys and hold their ground. RB with Redmond and Mendy looks good too for a few years. Granted we all know about Arians, but we'll see what he does.

    Defensively, I do thing that Hood and Heyward will eventually transition in just the right time. I"m guessing we'll see Hood replace Smith (if that hasn't already happened), and in time we'll see Heyward move into Kiesels spot. Hampton and or Kiesel is obviously going to be needed past their current contract, and I wouldn't be shocked to see the Steelers go with another Defensive lineman in the 1st round of the draft next year and keep one of those guys until the fill in is ready. The secondary is also a major concern about 2 years from now, and they are going to need to do something there. You just can't replace a Troy (he's one of those once every 2 decade type players), and I even think Clark is hard to replace. Those two add some serious toughness to the secondary, and they aren't easily replaceable. But, I also believe having that solid d line is very important in today's game. If you put a lot of pressure on guys like Brady, Rodgers, Manning etc they aren't nearly as accurate.

    The LB core is halfway set with Woodley and Timmons signing this year. I could see Harrison being around to the end of his contract. We'll probably see Farrior ride off into the sunset next year, and then Sylvester will jump in. Is he the right fit? Unknown..

    I also think Butler can replace Gay or Mcfadden in the next year or so. That's the Steelers biggest hole at the moment. And finding and upgrading the corner is a huge priority as well. It's definitely going to get interesting in the coming years because that secondary is going to be a huge unknown.

    HOWEVER, I think this could be one of the best Steeler years yet of the past 10 years. I have this feeling that they are on a mission, and they know that their time is winding down. I wouldn't doubt they make it back to the Superbowl this year. And this time around THUMP whoever they play.
    We could, if everything works our way, run the table on the entire schedule this year, fo$l. I really do think we are that good because we are deep and have a lot of able guys who can spell the elite players on this team. I wasn't so sure when camp opened. But I kept looking at our roster and that's when it settled in that we might have the makings of a really special team here.

    We'll see, of course. We still need to play the games, play hard and look at every game individually. These Steelers are good. And, with a little luck, we could be in for a great year.
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    Default Re: The "Old Guard" Steelers and the End Of The Line

    Quote Originally Posted by buckeyehoppy View Post
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    We could, if everything works our way, run the table on the entire schedule this year, fo$l. I really do think we are that good because we are deep and have a lot of able guys who can spell the elite players on this team. I wasn't so sure when camp opened. But I kept looking at our roster and that's when it settled in that we might have the makings of a really special team here.

    We'll see, of course. We still need to play the games, play hard and look at every game individually. These Steelers are good. And, with a little luck, we could be in for a great year.
    Definitely got to enjoy these next 3 to 4 years as best as we can. I think this year is going to be great as well. Then things will start to get shakier a bit. And 5 years from now it will be like the Mark Malone/Bubby Brister era again until the next decade long cycle comes around.

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    Default Re: The "Old Guard" Steelers and the End Of The Line

    Great Article, Hoppy !

    A lot of those guys are already at replacement level, meaning that we have some guys ready to replace them now. We have 2 DL's ready to go in Heyward and Hood.

    Farrior shouldn't have been extended when he was since he was too old then IMO but, Farrior was a Free Agent, when we signed him, so there are cases of using Free Agency to fill a need if you don't think what you have is capable. I don';t know how they feel about guys like Sylvester and Worilds etc... but obviously FA does pose a choice.

    Ward is slowly getting replaced. He more than Batch IMO should become the next coach on this team, as a WR Coach when he's done. He's been doing it for a while now anyway, mentoring al of the young guys and new guys that come in.

    It's inevitable that you will get old in some positions and the Steelers have been trying to fix some of the holes with the draft but to me the biggest or most important replacement is Ben. His body has taken a beating and at some point I believe he's going to have to adopt more of a pocket game, a quicker pocket passing game kind of like John Elway later on his career. He won't be able to flee the pocket like he does or continue taking that beating he does to buy that extra time to find someone down field.

    Now, the problem with QB is that... They aren't easy to find. I remember reading something one time years ago where as we all have *****ed about kordell Stewart plenty of times, they showed all of the QB's that the Steelers could have drafted where they were drafting a lot of those seasons and the options really weren't any better. That was a longer string of years. The value of a Franchise QB is huge and there's going to come a time where if the Steelers have a guy at QB that they really love, they are gonna hjave to pull the trigger because it doesn't happen as often as yuou would like and you don't want to pass up the Opportunity. QB is way to important a posotion
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    Default Re: The "Old Guard" Steelers and the End Of The Line

    I still think they can get 4 to 5 more solid years out of Ben. Then the Steelers will just have to bite the bullet with the next Mark Malone type for a while, until they have a stinker of a season and can find a worthy replacement.

    Finding a Ben, Manning, Brady, or Brees is no easy task. You look at about 24 of the other teams and they have mediocre qb's. If you switch Flacco with Ben on the Ravens, they are easily winning 2 of the last 5 superbowls. That's how fine of a line that position is.

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    Default Re: The "Old Guard" Steelers and the End Of The Line

    Quote Originally Posted by foslrock View Post
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    Good thread... I personally think Roethlisberger hasn't even peaked yet. Call me crazy, but I think the next 4 years are going to be great with him.
    I think you have a good point there actually. If you look at some of the other great QBs over the years, some of their best seasons occurred at about the same point in their careers where Ben is at right now. Manning had his best year in year #7 of his career breaking Marino's record. Brady broke Manning's record in his 8th season. Montana had some great seasons in the late 80s when he was already in the league for 8 or 9 years. Even Bradshaw probably had his best season statistically in 1978, his ninth season in the league. If (a very big if) Ben can stay healthy, there's no reason why he can't have some of his best years as a Steeler coming up, especially with this WR core they have in place.

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    Default Re: The "Old Guard" Steelers and the End Of The Line

    Quote Originally Posted by BlackNGoldRules View Post
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    I think you have a good point there actually. If you look at some of the other great QBs over the years, some of their best seasons occurred at about the same point in their careers where Ben is at right now. Manning had his best year in year #7 of his career breaking Marino's record. Brady broke Manning's record in his 8th season. Montana had some great seasons in the late 80s when he was already in the league for 8 or 9 years. Even Bradshaw probably had his best season statistically in 1978, his ninth season in the league. If (a very big if) Ben can stay healthy, there's no reason why he can't have some of his best years as a Steeler coming up, especially with this WR core they have in place.
    Agreed. That's why I was suggesting it. You look at the quarterbacks that you mentioned, they all sort of peaked after their 6th year or so. Quarterback is one of those positions where the more experience you have in the league, the better you will be. It's not like the other positions on Defense or running back where you have to be young, and quick. the QB position you need smarts, experience, and the ability to stay agile. That's why we saw Favre still make NFC championships in his 40's. Montana was 33 and 34 when the 49ers repeated as Superbowl Champs. Look at Elway and how great he was at the end of his career and he was in his late 30's pushing 40 when the Broncos repeated. So, in my opinion, the best years of the QB is usually in their 30's. Not in their 20's. It's in their 30's when these guys tend to peak. Manning has looked good in his 30's (well he's looked good his entire career). So, it goes to show that you can't write Ben off just because he's 30. I think with this offense, and the emergence of a better offensive line at just the right point in his career, that we will see some phenomenal years ahead. I think starting this year we are going to see some Roethlisberger magic that goes beyond what we've seen before.

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