I nearly wrote about this when it became official that the Pittsburgh Steelers’ veteran inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons was signing with the Dolphins, but after yesterday’s release of Greg Warren, it’s probably even more appropriate now: their roster, once rife with championship experience, is becoming barren in that regard.
I wrote an article last year talking about the group that I called the ‘08ers, the players who remained from the 2008 season, in which the Steelers most recently won the Super Bowl. That group has taken some hits lately. But the ‘05ers are now nearly gone entirely.
Closing out the 2014 season, there remained four members of that group, the 2005 roster, the players who had gone to three Super Bowls on this team and won two of them. Heath Miller retired in 2015; Warren’s release cuts their numbers in half. All that now remain are quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who evidently nearly retired this year, and outside linebacker James Harrison, who has already retired once and is rapidly approaching 40.
Not many more even remain from the 2008 championship team, either. Aside from Roethlisberger and Harrison, there is—William Gay. That’s it. That’s all that’s left. Matt Spaeth made it through the 2015 season, but like Warren was released with a failed physical last offseason.
Few even remain from the 2010 roster that made it to the Super Bowl and lost. In addition to the aforementioned Roethlisberger, Harrison, and Gay, we pick up only four more players. Offensive linemen Ramon Foster and Maurkice Pouncey were there, Pouncey as a rookie. Antonio Brown was in his rookie season as well. And then there was David Johnson, who like Spaeth, left and returned.
The Steelers used to talk of the pride and the value of having a roster full of players who understood what it takes to win a championship because they had literally done it. LaMarr Woodley leading up to the 2008 Super Bowl talked about how Harrison motivated him by showing him his own ring from the 2005 Super Bowl.
We don’t hear that anymore these days, and the reason is obvious. We are now in an era of the roster in which the wisdom gathered through the experience of winning a championship is no longer present—not outside of its two sages on offense and defense.
They can change that in 2017 by winning, and they have the roster that can get it done. The Steelers have gotten incrementally closer to returning to the Super Bowl in each of the past three seasons, reaching the AFC Championship game a year ago.
It would seem fitting that in the twilight of the Steelers’ most recent championship era they would be primed to renew their winning ways with a seventh Lombardi Trophy. And it would leave them with a new core of young winners around which to build another perennial contender.