The Pittsburgh Steelers have lost five defensive players during the offseason that played at least 263 snaps last season, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing being as the unit didn’t play particularly stellar against the run in addition to giving up 50 explosive passing plays. Despite the loss of those five players this offseason, several of which were longtime veterans, team president Art Rooney II still firmly believes that his team has the pieces in place to compete for another championship in 2015.
“I think we have enough talent on this team to compete for a championship,” Rooney said during one-on-one interview with Channel 11’s Alby Oxenreiter. “There’s no doubt we lost some players who we’ll miss, and who provided some great leadership on and off the field.”
While the Steelers defense may have lost quite a few players during the offseason, the offense has mostly been kept in tact for 2015. In fact, the only notable loss, if you call him that, was wide receiver Lance Moore, who was released back in March. Moore only played 264 snaps and his 14 receptions for 198 yards and two touchdowns will easily be replaced.
If the offense performs at or above the level that they did last season, all that’s needed is for the defense to improve their level play. That unit will have two players entering their second year’s in inside linebacker Ryan Shazier and Stephon Tuitt. Shazier battled a few injuries last season while Tuitt started to show that he’s ready to take over on the left side late during his rookie campaign.
Now that safety Troy Polamalu has retired, third-year safety Shamarko Thomas will be expected to fill his shoes. Additionally, the secondary should also have a healthy Mike Mitchell in 2015 as well as he was hampered by groin problems during his first season with the team. Let’s also not forget about cornerback Cortez Allen, who will be expected to bounce back after an injury-plagued season that included poor play on the outside.
While the Steelers did add eight new faces last weekend during the draft, it might take a little while to get a few of them on the field. Rooney told Oxenreiter that he’s not ready to pass judgment on the selections just yet, however.
While you wouldn’t expect Rooney to say that he doesn’t think the pieces are in place to make a run at a seventh Lombardi Trophy in 2015, I think he honestly believes what he said. The 2014 team went 11-5 last season and bad defense and all, let’s not forget that they were 8-2 in their last 10 games. Not having running back Le’Veon Bell for the playoffs certainly has to be taken into account as well.
This 2015 team should indeed be better than the one they fielded last season and anything less than a deep playoff run should be viewed as a disappointment by both Rooney and the fans alike.