The Pittsburgh Steelers have always been known as one of the better franchises in the NFL at developing their own players instead of paying for free agents. The team has never been afraid to say goodbye to ageing veterans such as Jason GIldon, Joey Porter and Alan Faneca to just name a few. There has always been a player behind these names who have been developing for a while to be ready to take over the starting job to avoid a major drop off.
The Steelers have again begun to cut ties with veterans as they did last offseason with James Farrior, Aaron Smith and Hines Ward. This offseason players like James Harrison, Casey Hampton, Brett Keisel, Larry Foote and others may face the same fate. The problem this time around is that there doesn’t seem to be the ready group of young players to step in to keep the team on track. The Steelers have been reluctant to allow younger players to get any playing time which has prevented any player to prove he is ready to become a starter.
James Harrison has a huge contract and almost assuredly will be cut and yet the best option currently on the team to start is Jason Worilds. Because of injuries, we actually have seen a lot of Worilds and although he has been solid, he hasn’t shown to be an impact player at the position. Larry Foote may be brought back at the veteran minimum and the only replacements on the team are Stevenson Sylvester and Sean Spence. Spence is coming off of a major knee injury and none of us know if Sylvester is any good at all. It would’ve been nice to have some tape of Sylvester to know if he had any future at all at linebacker or if he was solely a special teams player.
Other than when they were forced by injuries, the Steelers have continuously kept young players on the bench instead of taking a shot and seeing what they have. What good is developing a guy like Keenan Lewis and after he finally is allowed to really show anything, lose him to free agency? I believe the team will do whatever they can to sign Lewis but no one really knows if that he is a sure thing to return.
The Steelers suffered multiple injuries to the outside linebacker position and struggled to get to the quarterback and yet rookie Adrian Robinson failed to receive any playing time. I’m not saying Robinson should have started over Harrison or Worilds or anything like that but he could have made an impact. If anything we could have learned how far he really was in his development and who knows what he could have done if given a shot. If he doesn’t even make the team next season then what was the point of having him on the roster in 2012? I’m not going to sit here and say I think Adrian Robinson could be the next James Harrison or anything like that but you get my point.
Steve McLendon made plays almost every time I saw him in the game this season and yet he played as minimal a role as possible. Casey Hampton wasn’t terrible this season but what was the point of keeping McLendon on the sidelines?
With all of the veterans who may not be retained this offseason the team is probably going to be forced to play more younger players however, wouldn’t it be nice if there were a few less question marks?
In the future the Steelers need to make a decision and find out exactly what they have in their young players before we get to this point.