Been debating this one in my head off and on for awhile now, and I often get flamed for comparing the Steelers front office with that of the Patriots but this is another point where Pittsburgh needs to stop this endless love affair with veterans and replenish the stock on defense in particular.
They've invested 2 first round picks in Hood and Heyward in the last 5 years and a solid NT prospect in McLendon; Hood is a starter who's slightly above average IMO and used completely the wrong way. Heyward shows flashes whenever he gets a chance to play but that's rare. Why not cut ties with both Keisel and Hampton, and actually give way to the guys who are the future in Heyward and McLendon. Cut these guys while they are still productive so you aren't stuck holding the bag when they deteriorate like we saw with Farrior and Ward in 2011.
Keisel had a good year overall last season but Da Beard has has been around since 2002 and Heyward is waiting. Even if you aren't comfortable with the depth, then maybe you push Heyward ahead of Keisel or at least give them equal playing time. Perhaps you get a few more years of depth out of Da Beard and valuable experience for Cam?
There is no viable replacement for Polamalu and Clark right now, how much longer can they last? Can we really justify the lack of attention to this position over the years? Regardless of other needs on the team, Troy has only been able to play in all 16 games in a year, 5 times since he came into the league in 2003. In 2011, even if he played in 16 games he was often hurt and not as effective.
How much longer can Clark last, he's been around for 10 years now and while he's generally durable he's not going to last forever. He's still playing at a high level but so was Farrior a couple years before he really showed signs of wear and tear. If you wait until the last minute you'll be left holding the bag with inexperienced players who may not work out.
The time is now and at the end of 2013 to move on with a new regime; much like New England does. They have no allegiance to any veterans other than Tom Brady and maybe Vince Wilfork. They realize it's time to cut ties with players wile their still productive but clearly in the twilight of their career, rather than wait until it's too late and end up with a situation like Pittsburgh has been in recently with jettisoning old weight.
Is this just a situation where Tomlin inherited an old team and has to try and rebuild over time? Sure that's part of it, but poor day 2 drafting, old veterans who are still around, and overlooking the Safety spot in particular is coming back to bite them.