So, the Steelers defense is getting old, huh? Hate to break it to you, but they are no where near as old as you might think.
You read the mock drafts and come to the conclusion that the Steelers defensive line is old and gray—kind of like the Just For Men commercial with Emmitt Smith.
Let's take a look at the Steelers defensive line that everyone says is so old.
Aaron Smith: 33
Casey Hampton: 32
Chris Hoke: 33
Brett Keisel: 31
We can even add Nick Eason to the list. Even though he is 29, he can still be considered old.
On this list, the only player who started as a rookie was Hampton. Smith became a full-time starter in his second year with the Steelers. He was a fourth-round draft pick.
Hoke joined the Steelers in 2001, and he did not see any real playing time until his third year. Hoke was active for two games in 2002 and inactive for the other 46 games. He has only missed one game since.
Keisel joined the Steelers in 2002 and played sparingly in his first three seasons, spending 2003 on IR. He has been a major contributor since.
What does this say? It says that the Steelers defensive scheme is very complicated, and most rookies have a hard time earning playing time in the first few years of their careers.
You may wonder why I bring this up. Simple: The replacements for these "old guys" are already on the roster.
Evander "Ziggy" Hood: The Steelers first-round draft pick last year, he earned playing time with injuries to the defensive line. He showed late in the season that he is understanding the defensive scheme. He will be a contributor and push for a starting position in 2010.
Ra'Shon "Sonny" Harris: Harris was drafted in the sixth round by the Steelers in 2009. Although he was not able to earn any playing time, he is obviously someone that fits into the Steelers plans. The Steelers placed Harris on the practice squad, and he was signed by the Carolina Panthers during the regular season. When he was placed on the Panthers practice squad, the Steelers immediately signed him to their active roster—and they kept him there so no one could take him.
Steve McLendon: Signed by the Steelers as an undrafted free agent in 2009, he was another player that has had his first year to sit and learn from the "old guys."
Now people are saying that the Steelers are destined to bring in someone to replace Hampton. This is a good possibility, but realize that it is not out of need. The Steelers are not forced to reach for someone in the top of Round One just to get a body in place.
They already have bodies in place—bodies that have some experience as to how the Steelers do things and a year of learning the scheme.
If the Steelers take a defensive linemen in the first round, know that they are doing so because he is the best available player—not because what they have is too old.