The unit has gotten old, slow, fat and injured and change has been needed.
It is expected that the team will focus heavily on the defensive side of the ball in the upcoming draft and with little depth in the secondary and on the defensive line, this decision is hard to argue.
The problem that many Steelers’ fans are aware of is that when the team drafts defensive players they are usually forced to sit the first year because of the complexities of the Dick LeBeau defensive system. Personally, this drives me nuts but it is what it is I suppose.
Last year was an exception with Jarvis Jones and even to a lesser degree with Shamarko Thomas because rookie defenders just don’t play much on defense in their first years.
This practice will now take on even more serious consequences because we cannot expect Dick LeBeau to coach forever. At 76 years old, LeBeau is a picture of good health but the fact remains that he will someday have to move on whether by choice or by force.
With this in mind, the Steelers have tough decisions to make. While they must draft players on the defensive side of the ball who will best work with LeBeau’s 3-4 defense, they must also consider the future.
Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert will tell us publicly that you have to draft for what you do today, not for the future and by and large that’s true. Ignoring the fact however that Dick LeBeau will not be around much longer would be a mistake and there’s no guarantee that Tomlin would stay with the 3-4 considering his history with the Tampa-two defense.
Of course this could all be a moot point if the Steelers struggle in 2014 and the whole staff is let go but let’s not go there just yet.
The Steelers are allegedly targeting cornerbacks Darqueze Dennard and Justin Gilbert as potential first round picks. There will also be at least one or two defensive linemen and linebackers drafted in May as well.
Should the Steelers be looking at guys who can easily make the transition should a LeBeau retirement be imminent? Not necessarily because it remains possible that Keith Butler, the linebackers coach could finally get his shot to run the defense.
Because the defense is so thin I do believe that rookies will once again be forced into action the way Jones was last year whether Dick LeBeau likes it or not. That said, the Steelers do have to consider life after LeBeau whether it be practical or not.
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 weekly on Trib-Live Radio talking Steelers and is a blogger for ESPN 970 in Pittsburgh.