I'm not talking about the 2009 season, we all know this season is all but a wash at this point. I'm talking about the window that this current group of Steelers is playing in. Let's face it, we're not getting any younger at several key positions, with no clear heir apparent ready to step in and take over. This same core group has been together for a long time and perhaps an influx of fresh talent is in order. Perhaps it's a player here and there, or perhaps it's wholesale personnel changes.
The loss of Aaron Smith and Polamalu especially, has made it abundantly clear that the Steelers have allowed themselves to get into the unenviable position of not having taken care of business in the draft and free agency. It's clear Hood is nowhere near ready, Kirschke is old and doing the best he can, Eason is average at best. Hampton and Kiesel are having solid years, Kiesel especially is playing out of his mind, but beyond those 2 it's a sad state of affairs on the defense line.
Farrior isn't getting any younger, and after that epic season last year that afforded him the new deal, he has seemingly lost a step as the season wears on. James is a top notch LB, but even father time catches up with all of us. With Timmons in and out of the lineup, Fox has had to step up, and he played well but the combination of players at MLB this year has not yielded it's usual dividends.
The Steelers front office felt like Gay was ready to replace McFadden so they let Bryant go to Arizona, but it's equally clear now that Gay is in way over his head and that Townsend needs to step in and finish out the season. With the new NFL rules on concussions, it's a good possibility that Gay will be out for Thursday's game against the Browns, but even if he is ready to play, he needs to take a back seat because his play has been horrific to say the least.
The unit as a whole seems to have lost a step and it's always a second late to the party on any given play. Is the loss of Smith & Polamalu completely to blame; have those 2 epic players hidden apparent weaknesses on the defense all this time? Perhaps it's just time for the Steeler Nation to realize that this defense isn't what it was, even right up until last year and perhaps the window is closing faster than we thought. Regardless of what you want to call it, who you want to blame, Lebeau's unit has shown nothing more than mediocrity over the course of this season, with only flashes now and then of what they were last year. Perhaps they get back to being their usual epic selves in 2010, but who's to say what will happen then if the same 2 players get hurt and miss time again. Smith & Polamalu aren't getting any younger either; it's high time the front office start getting some solid heirs for them to groom.
Lebeau can only do so much; he's calling the same epic defensive blitz schemes, the same style of organized chaos that helped us win 2 championships in the last 4 years, but the players are not executing anywhere near what we're used to seeing and it's quite frankly, disheartening.