Now that the dust has started settling for the Pittsburgh Steelers, among all of the roster moves that have been made over the course of the last month, it is time to look at who on the roster is going to be the face of the future.
Out is Hines Ward, who has been a leader of the Steelers for the better part of the last decade. For years we saw Ward blocking for Jerome Bettis and catching passes that tore out the hearts of the Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns.
When Bettis left the Steelers, Ben Roethlisberger was only in his second season, and Hines Ward became the offensive leader of the team.
Now that the Steelers have cut ties with Ward, the offensive captain position has officially opened. Now, it has already been closed.
The man that has closed it has slowly been pushing Ward out that door for a while, and his name is Ben Roethlisberger.
Big Ben has proven time and time again that when the game is on the line, he is the one that has the ball in his hands, and he is going to be the guy to make the play, giving the Steelers a W instead of an L.
No, I am not saying that Hines Ward and Ben Roethlisberger didn't get along or that there was constant tension between the two, but it was obvious that Ward and Roethlisberger didn't see eye to eye on everything, like the concussion that held Roethlisberger out of a game against the Ravens in 2010.
Now, the offense belongs to Ben, and the Steelers will be better because of it. No longer will Roethlisberger have to make the mandatory receiver screen to Ward, or the shuttle pass so that he can get his yards.
Ward was great for the Steelers for many years, but 2011 was not one of those years. Any Steelers fan being honest with himself or herself would have to admit that Ward, when he was in the game, had a lot more dropped passes than we were used to seeing.
With the release of Ward, the unquestioned leader of the offense can take the star, put it on his chest, along with his No. 7, and lead this offense to places it has not gone before.
The release of Ward and the hiring of Todd Haley are indications that the Steelers of the past are just that now—in the past. The new wave of Steelers are ready to take the field, with a field general that is ready to not only be the best QB in the history of the Steelers, but one of the best in the NFL as well.
At 30 years old, Roethlisberger is entering the prime of his career. As the leader of the offense, we can expect big things from Big Ben.
On the defensive side of the ball, James Farrior has worn the captain's C on his chest for the last decade for the Steelers. Farrior at one point was considered the best free-agent signing ever by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
As a top-10 draft pick of the New York Jets, Farrior was nearing bust status. The Jets were running a 4-3 defense, and Farrior simply didn't fit in that system. When the Jets released him after his rookie contract expired, Farrior joined the Steelers and became the player the Jets had hoped he would be.
Farrior served the Steelers well over his tenure with the Black and Gold. He never got the recognition of a Ray Lewis, but if you ask Steelers fans, he was every bit as important to the Steelers as Lewis is to the Ravens.
Now that Farrior is gone, there are two candidates for the Steelers to wear the C on their chest for the defense, and they were the first two picks of the Mike Tomlin era.
LaMarr Woodley could be considered the obvious choice, with numbers that far exceed any player in their first four years with the Steelers. If Woodley can stay healthy, he could put a hurting on the sack record that is currently held by Jason Gildon.
Lawrence Timmons is also a great option, taking the place of Farrior on the defense. After being the understudy of Farrior for the last four years, Timmons has learned the linebacker position from one of the best.
Timmons has learned to make the calls and the adjustments, and I expect him to have a monster season in 2012.
And that is not even taking into account the two players that are still on the defense that have won the Defensive Player of the Year for the Steelers in James Harrison and Troy Polamalu.
The Steelers defense is rich with talent, and the loss of Farrior is not going to hurt anywhere near as bad as some might think.
Though some people think it has been a black month for the Steelers, the silver lining takes up all of this cloud, as the Steelers are set to move into the future with one of the best teams they have had in a long time.