While the Pittsburgh Steelers may have gained some tangible evidence of improvement, improving their win total by three games and hosting a playoff game as a division champion for the first time in four seasons, there is no doubt that the team is far from a finished product.
No team, of course, is a finished product in the offseason. Every team loses players to free agency and retirement, and replaces them through the same free agency process, as well as the draft.
Some teams make more sweeping changes, hiring and firing new coaches, general managers, and front office staff, hoping that the next wholesale change will hit upon the correct formula. The Steelers are not an organization to make knee-jerk decisions; even with the departure of Dick LeBeau as defensive coordinator, the contingency plan for his replacement had been known already for years.
With all of the change that occurs during the offseason, it’s often difficult to predict how a particular team might fare. They may wind up holding the Lombardi trophy or the first overall draft pick when all is said and done.
In order to gain a better feel for not only the issues facing the team this year, but how those issues might play out, it’s useful to take the devil’s advocate approach. This is the optimistic side of the coin.
Question: Will Troy Polamalu play another season in Pittsburgh, and how will he perform?
By the time the Steelers next take the field, Troy Polamalu will be 34 years old. Whether or not he will be on the field, participating in his 13th NFL season, remains to be seen, but the majority seem to believe that this is the end of the road, whether by choice or by force.
Polamalu has always been somewhat of an enigmatic figure in the sporting world, in which football was just one small aspect of a varied and fulfilling life. It was always understood that Polamalu would likely someday walk away from the game. This doesn’t have to be that year.
Polamalu still has two years left on his contract, and while he may have slowed down some—and also suffered a couple of injuries along the way, the former perennial All-Pro can still be a very good safety in this league who provides impact plays.
He did have as many as we would have liked in 2014—he didn’t record a single interception—but we can’t ignore the fact that he forced seven turnovers just a year prior and was named to the Pro Bowl. He didn’t just fall off a cliff.
His cap hit may be hard to swallow for some, but it’s important to keep in mind that the Steelers are an organization operating under the assumption that they are currently navigating a closing championship window with their franchise quarterback, and having Polamalu back there at safety gives them the best chance to win now. That doesn’t preclude the Steelers from grooming his eventual replacement at the same time.