Over the course of the past couple of years, the Pittsburgh Steelers have undergone an uncommon amount of change, which could have been largely correlated with the fact that the team had finished 8-8 in consecutive seasons while failing to advance to the postseason.
In deference to general manager Kevin Colbert, the attitude used to approach the offseason in those years was that this was an 8-8 team and these were 8-8 players. It’s little surprise that a lot of things changed during those years.
But the Steelers are now coming off a season in which they finished with a record of 11-5, going 8-2 down the stretch and winning their last four games to claim their first AFC North title since the 2010 season. correspondingly, we’ve seen a great deal less roster turnover.
And that is the first thing that we will look at during this particular season of change—just how differently the approach has been this offseason in comparison to the last two, which featured an extreme amount of roster turnover.
Instead, what we now find is a roster that has largely remained static from last year, outside of some predictable departures, and perhaps one not so much. Those predictable losses include the retirements of the 33-year-old Troy Polamalu and the 34-year-old Ike Taylor, and the release of the 37-year-old Brett Keisel.
The surprise retirement of Jason Worilds, according to Colbert, did not affect their 2015 plans due to the fact that they did not anticipate re-signing him, but they were unwilling to match the offer that Brice McCain accepted with the Dolphins.
In all, the Steelers retained about 46 or 47 players that had spent time on the 53-man roster last season, also noting the releases of Justin Brown, Lance Moore, and LeGarrette Blount, though two of them were replaced in-season.
With the addition of free agent running back DeAngelo Williams, the Steelers retained or added more players than can accommodate their new draft class, which means that in order for some rookies to make the team, they must prove to be a better option than somebody who earned a roster spot on last year’s 11-5, division-winning team.
It is interesting to note that fact that many of their losses—via retirement, mainly—did come at significant areas—starting players, or significant role players. Polamalu and Taylor, though they each missed several games were starters. Keisel logged starter-worthy snaps until he missed the last four games of the year. Worilds played nearly 1000 snaps.
So for what modifications that they do have to make to 2015’s roster to compensate for the losses from last year’s squad, it is significant that those replacements will be coming in the starting lineup, or at least at key rotational spots.
And unlike the last couple of seasons, it is not projected that those replacements will be coming in the form of rookies, which was itself a change for the Steelers. But that is a topic worthy of its own dissection on another day.