I recently came across a quote made by Steelers Defensive End Brett Keisel during the OTA’s which stuck in my mind:
"“I don’t know if it’s a new era, but there are a lot of guys out here I have no idea who they are.” via The Sports Xchange on CBSSports.com"
Granted, I am sure most of this quote was made in jest because the Steelers experienced so much roster turnover this offseason, but “The Beard” really made a good point. There are numerous new faces on this football team, that is a straight up fact. The old faces of the early decade we grew to know and adore have either left, or are now on the verge of packing it in over the next couple of seasons. But you know what? It is not necessarily a bad thing at all for this team.
All things considered though, the Steelers franchise has replaced talent and transitioned from consistent roster turnover better than almost any team during the Free Agency/Salary Cap era. So last night, I thought about some of the talent which Pittsburgh has developed and helped to become terrific players over the last 20 years, and then ultimately had to replace for whatever reasons. This list is just a short sample I came up with:
Running Backs: Barry Foster, Jerome Bettis, Willie Parker
Tight End/Wide Receivers: Eric Green, Yancey Thigpen, Plaxico Burress, Santonio Holmes, Hines Ward
Centers/Guards: Dermontti Dawson, Carlton Haselrig, Duval Love, Jeff Hartings, Alan Faneca
Tackles: John Jackson, Marvel Smith
Defensive Linemen: Ray Seals, Joel Steed, Kimo von Oelhoffen, Aaron Smith
Linebackers: Hardy Nickerson, David Little, Kevin Greene, Chad Brown, Greg Lloyd, Levon Kirkland, Earl Holmes, Kendrell Bell, Jason Gildon, Joey Porter, James Farrior
Defensive Backs: Rod Woodson, Thomas Everett, Carnell Lake, Darren Perry, Deshea Townsend
Kicker: Gary Anderson
Some of these guys were above-average contributors and played to a very high level during their tenures with the club like Randle El, Jackson, Seals, von Oelhoffen, Nickerson, Holmes, Everett, Perry, and Townsend. Santonio had one of the greatest individual Postseasons ever and was named Super Bowl MVP for his efforts. The rest of these players made the Pro Bowl at least once during there time in Pittsburgh, and a good number of these guys made multiple Pro Bowls like Lake, Lloyd, Greene, Farrior, Foster, Anderson, Green, Parker, Porter Hartings etc.. Yet the awesome thing about this list is that it includes two Hall of Famers already inducted in the forms of Woodson and Dawson, and Ward, Bettis, and Faneca all likely will have their tickets punched to Canton in the near future as well. And this is a list of guys that are gone now. Who knows how awesome this list will be in another decade when a few names like Casey Hampton, Maurkice Pouncey, Heath Miller, James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, and Troy Polamalu are added to it.
With all the change, it honestly goes to show the solid work of people like Dick Haley, Tom Donahoe, Kevin Colbert and the rest of their fellow employees during their regime’s when they were Front Office heads. The talent may come and go, but the key has been to make it a never-ending process, and it is what the Steelers have done a masterful job of over the last couple decades. And yes, Pittsburgh is again in the midst of yet another rebuilding/reloading process as we speak.
Yet as Coach Mike Tomlin has stated over and over again: “The Standard is The Standard.” And that singular phrase itself embodies almost the “The Steeler Way” of doing things, and how they have kept building winning teams over the years. Players, and talented players at that, may leave for whatever reasons. But the Steelers and their Front Office have always been on the lookout to add new and talented players to the roster on a consistent basis. We might not know very many of these new names and faces right now in June of 2012, yet over the next few years I am sure they will all be familiar to us and we will be cheering hard for them.