Are The Steelers Acting Their Age?
Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial
|Tuesday, March 06, 2007
By Marc Simon
Steelers Fever Columnist
15-1. 11-5. 8-8. It's not the Da Vinci Code. It's the regular-season record of the Pittsburgh Steelers over the last three seasons.
Going strictly by the record, one could argue that despite the Super Bowl championship of 2005-2006, the performance of the Black and Gold has been going down in almost direct proportion to the age of the team going up. Look at the roster. Over the last three years, it's been essentially the same cast of characters, and 14 of those Steelers will be over 30 when next season begins.
As you remember, the 2004 Steelers were an irresistible force. Half of the games were over by halftime, including memorable back-to-back thrashings of New England (the previous year's Super Bowl champ) and Philadelphia (the previous year's Super Bowl runner-up). The defense allowed the fewest points in the NFL. But that was back when defensive starters such as James Farrior, DeShea Townsend, Joey Porter, Clark Haggans and Aaron Smith had a lot more tread on the tires than they do now.
In 2005, the wrinkles began to show. After starting the season 7-5, the Steelers had to run the proverbial table just to make it to the playoffs as the sixth seed. Yes, they made an unparalleled run to win the Super Bowl, but could it be that their mad dash to victory took a lot more out of them than we might imagine?
I know what you're going to say: Last year's record was an aberration and the Steelers were a lot better than their record. But were they? True, they lost some games they should have won, including the first game against Cincinnati and the shootout in Atlanta. But they also won some games they should have lost, like the last game in Cincinnati and the away game against the Cleveland Browns, who flat out blew it in the fourth quarter. Despite all the turnovers and the injuries, it all evened out for the Steelers in the end -- just like the record indicates.
Maybe it's too early to start questioning the team's capabilities -- hell, even the Pirates aren't out of the pennant race yet -- but going into next season, the Steelers will have basically the same squad whose record has been declining as steadily as the stock market this year. Key contributors such as Hines Ward, Farrior, Smith, Alan Faneca, Charlie Batch, Haggans, Casey Hampton, Chris Hoke, Clint Kriewaldt, and Dan Kreider are on the other side of the big 3-0. Five of these players have been Pro Bowlers, but only one made the trip last year. You have to wonder if their best years are behind them.
Obviously, the team is not without considerable young talent. Any GM in the league would jump at the opportunity to grab a Ben Roethlisberger, Willie Parker, Heath Miller, Santonio Holmes or Troy Polamalu. Perhaps young offensive linemen like Willie Colon or Chris Kemoeatu will rise up and seize a job. Hopefully, cornerback Ike Taylor's performance will justify his contract.
The defense in particular needs some tough young blood. But unless the veteran core of 30-something players discovers the fountain of youth, we may be in for another tough non-playoff year. No one is getting any younger -- except the competition.