December 30, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin reacts on the sidelines against the Cleveland Browns during the first quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
It’s ironic that I wrote this post before knowing about the Ray Lewis news. For as long as I can remember watching football, Ray Lewis has been as much a part of the Ravens as the Terrible Towel is a part of the Steelers. Next season will definitively feel and look different with these two rivals. But this is a Steelers blog and a Ravens one so let’s focus on the Black and Gold.
After Sunday’s game, I went into the Steelers’ locker room, saying it was a funeral atmosphere would be too harsh, but the modd wasn’t much better. Players were constantly asked about next year with almost all having the same answer of “I wish we could bring everyone back,” and “it’s just part of the business.” Both of the Rooney executives came into the locker room to greet players on their way out. Players were quick to leave after they talked to the media. It wasn’t the Steelers we are used to seeing on week 17 of the NFL season.
And thus, changes will be made. In fact, changes have to be made with as many free agents as the Steelers possess. I’m not going to break ALL of the moves (that comes later on by a lot of people both here and among other sites on the internet) but I can almost guarantee that Mike Wallace and Rashard Mendenhall won’t be back. That right there opens two relatively big holes on an underperforming offense. Defensively, Brett Keisel will probably not return, Casey Hampton is a 50/50 chance to return and James Harrison needs to restructure his contract if he wants future security in Pittsburgh. Larry Foote is leaning towards retirement and Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu are both on the way out within a few years.
That right there is a long list of significant contributors that could all be no longer in Black and Gold by 2014.
The Steelers were building a dynasty ever since Heinz Field opened for the most part, since the drafting of Ben in 2004, the Steelers have been one of the top 5 teams in the NFL. But all Dynasties have endings and begin anew. Mike Tomlin was given a fairly talented team when he took the reins but now he has to remake the Steelers.
Rumors swirl that the Steelers may morph into a 4-3 Cover 2 team like Tomlin coached in Minnesota and Tampa Bay. Maybe Todd Hailey is gone after the tensions with Ben Roethlisberger. I don’t know exactly what will happen but I know that this Steelers franchise is moving in a new direction than the one we’ve all been accustomed to seeing.
Since their Super Bowl loss to the Packers, the Steelers have been on the decline. Usually, once the Steelers get a semi decent pick in the draft, changes get made and the team returns to the upswing. Let’s hope this trend continues as 8-8 is just not up to Pittsburgh standards.