To say that last season was a disappointment is an understatement. The team got old before our eyes and looked disinterested in some games against “lesser” opponents. Even though 9-7 was unfortunate, things are not as bad as some are making them out to be. Here is my offseason plan for getting the Steelers back to the Super Bowl next season.
(I am assuming the CBA is not renewed)
Franchise Jeff Reed
Reed has been a really good kicker for the Steelers over the years, if he doesn’t resign to a new deal he should be franchised.
Transition Casey Hampton
Hampton is still playing at a high level, but he is getting old and the Steelers have not done a great job of finding a replacement for him. The tag allows for him to return for one more year, which allows for a potential replacement to be groomed. If teams show interest in him, he could be traded for the right amount.
Players to Let Go
Ty Carter showed this season he doesn’t have what it takes to play in the NFL anymore. He looked sluggish and took poor angles and missed tackles. He can be upgraded.
Deshea Townsend has been a really good player for a long time now, but it might be time to say, “Thanks for the memories,” and move on.
Travis Kirshke has been a solid reserve, but at his age his role would be better filled by Nick Eason, Ziggy Hood, and Sonny Harris.
Return if Willing to Play for Reasonable Contract
Ryan Clark's play tailed off this year, but if he wants to come back for a fair contract, he is welcome to return. If not, he can walk.
Willie Parker looked pretty good toward the end of the year and he could form a good one-two punch with Rashard Mendenhall, but he seems to want to try to find a team for which he can start. If he looks around and can’t find that team, it would be nice for him to return for a fair contract.
James Farrior was the personification of the aging on the defense this past season. He looked old and slow, and missed tackles he would never have missed in the past. If he is willing to renegotiate his current deal to a smaller one, he is free to return as a backup, if not, he can walk.
Needs in Free Agency and the Draft
The Steelers need one starting CB, and if Ryan Clark leaves, a starting FS. James Farrior should not be a starter any longer, Lawrence Timmons should be moved to the “Buck” LB spot, and Keyaaron Fox or a draft pick should man the “Mack” spot. With Hampton back for a year, a NT should be taken in the draft to be groomed to potentially replace him.
On the offensive side, the O-line needs to play better, especially at the center and right guard spots. A fullback should be added, and David Johnson should become the No. 2 blocking tight end with Matt Spaeth coming in three tight end sets and in the red zone.
The Steelers don’t have to run that much anymore, they just need to be more efficient when they do it, and they cant become one dimensional. Limas Sweed needs to get considerable playing time in the preseason to get his confidence up, he has the talent to be a playmaker, he just needs to get over the hump.
While I don’t like Max Starks that much, he is serviceable at LT. Kemo has played well since he became a starter, and, if he cuts down on the mental errors, he could be getting close to being a upper tier guard.
I saw an article about Colon taking snaps at center, and the idea intrigues me. If he could be moved he could develop into a top-shelf center, and he shouldn’t jump offside at center, which is kinda like getting five extra yards per game.
I expect big things out of Kraig Urbik, he was highly rated going into the draft but he struggled in camp because he was able to use his strength to dominate people in college, but that isn't enough in the NFL. If his technique can be improved to match his physical gifts he could be a starter and help to upgrade the interior of the line.
If Colon is moved to center, Trai Essex should be moved to RT, he is a solid run blocker, and he is good in pass pro, and his athletic ability and longer arms could be an upgrade over Colon when we are passing.
The team is actually in pretty good shape. The offense has a great deal of young talent on it and it should keep getting better. Some of the oldies on the defense need to be replaced, but it is possible to fill those holes before next year.
One additional thing that needs to be addressed is the lack of quality depth at certain positions. After the failed Bruce Davis experiment, there is no young OLB who can come in to help pressure the quarterback, and if James Harrison or Woodley gets hurt it could mean trouble.
There is also a lack of depth at safety that reared its’ ugly head after Troy Polamalu got hurt. If those issues are addressed, this team has a core of talented players that could allow for the Steelers to be legitimate contenders for a long time.