James Harrison is the lone survivor of the defense that led the Steelers to three AFC Championships and two Super Bowl Titles in the latter half of the 00’s decade. Ben Roethlisberger and Heath Miller make up the Super Bowl veterans on the offensive side of the ball. Though James and Heath were really only instrumental in the last two appearances, that doesn’t make their impact on this team any less.
If you count their long snapper Greg Warren, that’s only 4 total players with significant experience in the big game currently on the 2015 roster. Maurkice Pouncey was injured for the game, while Antonio Brown, Steve McLendon, William Gay, and Will Allen weren’t major contributors.
The guys that were on the bench that day now have to step up and become the leading force for a Steelers’ squad itching to go far into the postseason.
That obviously doesn’t apply to Will Allen (god forbid an injury to the secondary), but for everyone else it rings true.
Pouncey, Timmons, and Brown have all become the leaders of their respective positions, but some of the newer players have to take the reins as well.
The running game will be as crucial as ever for the Steelers to return to contention. The front office did a great job addressing the depth back there to ensure another crisis like the Wild Card loss to the Ravens this past season doesn’t happen again. DeAngelo Williams will prove to be a wise choice to back up Le’veon Bell not only from a skill-set standpoint, but from a personality one as well.
The offensive line is made up of young veterans with an extremely close bond. Maurkice will continue to lead this band of brothers with two goals in mind: protect Big Ben and open up lanes for Bell.
With the offense continuing to click, its easy to envision this team going far. Ben, Brown, Bell, and Pouncey will make sure of it.
The defense is outfitted with plenty of new faces. Green players signify difficult challenges ahead. Despite having only two years of starter snaps, Cam Heyward has already proven to be one of the best 3-4 defensive ends around. His leadership will be needed as the younger players will look up to him.
Ryan Shazier looks to take the torch from James Harrison as the leader of the linebackers while the rest of the crew isn’t far behind. Shazier, along with Heyward, will likely form the cornerstone of a defense that has the potential to show the Steel Curtains of the past that they deserve to call themselves Steelers.
The secondary is arguably the most uncertain lot. Shamarko Thomas has to prove he can man the strong safety spot and Cortez Allen must be able to reclaim his spot as the number one cornerback. Everyone behind them is equally untested, which only adds to the mystery.
This new generation of players and leaders will have a lot on their plates. Hopefully they live up to their potential and dominate this league.