The line between a team rebuilding and reloading in any sport is always different depending upon exactly what sport we’re talking about. Each have a unique set of variables one must consider such as talent that has left, talent that remains, coaching changes and certainly new acquisitions.
In the National Football League, the difference between rebuilding and reloading is a fine line and that’s where the Pittsburgh Steelers find themselves in 2013. I could easily buy arguments from both sides in terms of where they think the team is, but in my own personal opinion, the Pittsburgh Steelers are in fact “rebuilding.”
It’s a tough pill to swallow for any fan, but there is just too much upheaval for it to be anything but. Those that argue this is just a reloading process will usually start with the fact that the quarterback position is stable. You’ll get no argument from me but Ben Roethlisberger isn’t the only all-pro quarterback to go through a rebuilding phase in the NFL.
My argument as to why this is a rebuilding job in Pittsburgh isn’t exactly rocket science.
Look at the changes that have already taken place just on the coaching staff. In 2013, the Steelers will have a new offensive line coach, a new wide receivers coach and a new special teams’ coach. Keep in mind also that with new OL coach Jack Bicknell, Jr. coming in, that also means a total change in philosophy as the line transitions to a ‘zone blocking’ scheme.
When you get to the players on the field, consider the potential changes that are on the horizon. There could be almost complete overhauls at wide receiver where Mike Wallace is most certainly gone and is Emmanuel Sanders that much of a sure thing to return as a restricted free agent? His injuries and inconsistency have haunted him.
The Steelers will have a pro bowl tight end coming off ACL surgery and while David Paulson is a nice back-up, he’s no starter.
While the running back position is no longer what it once was in terms of its’ need to be a dominant position in pro football, it nevertheless is crucial to the success of any offense. Right now, the Steelers do not have a running back on the roster. With changes to the blocking system, the best fit among free agents is probably the guy that needs to move on the most in Rashard Mendenhall. Isaac Redman is not a ‘zone’ guy and Jonathan Dwyer isn’t really either.
The offensive line will be no stranger to change either. Gone more than likely will be Max Starks from his left tackle position. You may also see guys like Willie Colon and Ramon Foster gone as well. That means as of today, the Steelers’ starting offensive line will be Marcus Gilbert, Maurkice Pouncey, Mike Adams, David DeCastro and To Be Determined.
According to my ‘vast knowledge,’ that’s four guys who have all dealt with significant injuries in the very recent past. If this doesn’t define ‘rebuilding’ then I don’t know what does.
The defense is not without significant reasons to label this a rebuilding effort too.
James Harrison allegedly said this week that he has no interest in a pay cut but would restructure. While that’s very generous of number 92 I don’t think there is much precedent for 35-year old linebackers getting restructured deals. If no Harrison then who at right outside backer?
Popular opinion has LaMarr Woodley moving over there because his back-up, Jason Worilds, plays better on the left side. Or does this person come from the draft? Either way it becomes a significant change. Larry Foote is a free agent on the inside and it’s highly likely the team will address that in the draft because Foote isn’t going to play for peanuts.
Because of the Steelers’ cap problems, does Brett Keisel get cut? Casey Hampton is a free agent who says he wants to play again but at what cost? That’s potentially two new guys on the three-man front. While I like the potential of Steve McLendon, can he do it over the course of a full game and full season?
Ziggy Hood and Cameron Heyward have not exactly set anyone’s black ‘n gold heart ablaze with their play so is this a potential area of major change too? Probably not for this year.
The secondary could well lose it’s most improved player from last year in Keenan Lewis who could garner a huge payout from other teams via free agency. I like Cortez Allen’s ability to replace him, but then the nickel spot becomes a glaring weakness and we know how vital a 3rd corner is in this pass-happy league.
What if Troy Polamalu and/or Ryan Clark are cap casualties? You’d suddenly go from one of the more talented and experienced secondaries in the league to one with three new starters and an aging Ike Taylor who is coming off of an injury.
National Football League teams go through changes every year. It’s really become more the than the exception especially with free agency. These alterations have been relatively minor for the Pittsburgh Steelers over the last several years, but now this is changing.
Some of the potential moves I mentioned are pure speculation at this point but I think you get the overall picture of what is happening and what needs to happen for this organization to move forward.
Rebuilding is often a dirty word compared to reloading. As a fan, you’re patience is going to be required because unless this team finds some real gems in the draft and can prove it can stay healthy, then I think another less than stellar season is a very real possibility.
Make no mistake, this a rebuilding move at the current moment.
Marc Uhlmann writes for and co-owns www.steelcityblitz.com. Follow him on Twitter @steeldad and follow the website at @SCBlitz. He can be heard Mondays on Trib-Live Radio at 4pm ET talking Steelers.