This isn’t going to be about unloading Troy Polamalu and James Harrison, letting Larry Foote and Casey Hampton walk away and blowing up the entire defensive side of the football. That’s no way to return to contender status in a year.
This is, however, about some of that. Making no changes at all would be like a death sentence for next season.
This is also about drafting players that can learn next season and step in if needed while focusing on being ready for 2014 and beyond. Those players mentioned above are all in the twilight of their careers.
Of that list, Hampton is the easiest to let go. Restricted free agent Steve McLendon is younger, more athletic and just as tenacious. He is an able starter and should slot into the nose tackle position nicely.
Harrison could be replaced by an effective, young Jason Worilds, but the latter’s health concerns are something to worry about. Harrison, like Polamalu, will need to agree to a cheaper contract to remain with the team.
Foote is in an interesting spot. He had a resurgence this season after spending a couple of years as a backup, but that resurgence cannot be counted upon again. The Steelers need to find a permanent replacement for James Farrior on the inside. If Sean Spence is healthy, he needs to start with Foote agreeing to a minimum contract to back him up or with another player entering through the draft, or free agency.