It seems like every season we’ve become accustomed to seeing familiar faces dressed in the black and gold. Guys who’ve always been around, who we’ll always remember as part of Steeler Nation. Although we’ve come to love these players, all things must come to an end.
For the Pittsburgh Steelers some of the veteran players who’ve been around for quite some time have got to go. Players like Brett Keisel, Ryan Clark and Larry Foote have all seen their days as a member of the Steelers.
The Steelers’ defense is in need of a major tune up. An aging unit for a few season now, it would appear that age has caught up to some of the players and even the unit as a whole.
Keisel’s been with the organization since 2002. He’s been a tremendous player over the years. He’s helped the Steelers to three Super Bowl appearances since joining the team and has also collected two rings while in Pittsburgh. Now, the defensive veteran will be a restricted free agent next season.
He deserves a lot of credit for his play over the years. The 3-4 defense isn’t geared toward Keisel sacking quarterbacks but he still managed to get his fair share while being one of the team’s best when it came to pressuring opposing quarterbacks.
However the defensive end is now 35 years old and has fallen victim to injuries while demonstrating that his play has declined in recent seasons. His numbers are still somewhat consistent but Keisel just isn’t the player that he was back in say 2006. With a guy like Cam Hayward showing a lot of promise, it isn’t worth keeping an aging Keisel.
Another player who should be finding his way out of Pittsburgh is safety Ryan Clark. Before the season started I asked if Clark would finish his career with the Steelers. Now the time has come to see if Clark will indeed hang up his cleats as a Steeler.
I can’t seen any reason to bring back the veteran safety. Clark, like Keisel, is an unrestricted free agent next season and has been a key player on Dick Lebeau’s defense including a Super Bowl XLIII, which Clark won with the team.
Clark, 34, may have had his worst season yet in 2013.
Too many times Clark was giving up plays he should’t have, and id nowhere near the kind of player the Steelers need to be keeping on this roster. The Steelers’ secondary needs work and having Clark around isn’t helping matters.
I believe that Clark, who’s been a very outspoken player for seasons, will be too stubborn to call it quits. I expect him to be wearing different colors come 2014.
I’ll highlight one more veteran who will likely not be back, linebacker Larry Foote. Foote missed all of this season after he ruptured his bicep in the season opener against the Tennessee Titans.
Foote is the defensive leader, the signal caller, a true veteran to this team. But now coming off an injury and being 33 years old, the future doesn’t look bright for Foote and the Steelers.
Even though Foote’s contract isn’t up until 2015, guys like Jason Worilds, Jarvis Jones and Vince Williams are young guns who have all the potential to replace a player like Foote. I can’t see the Steelers bringing Foote back. It wouldn’t be that big of a finical burden, but even at a small price it isn’t worth it.
All of these players and even guys like Troy Polamalu, Ike Taylor and LaMarr Woodley are all seeing their days numbered. It’s tough to imagine a Steelers team without these faces.
But did you ever picture a Steelers’ defense without James Harrison? You saw it this year and you saw how big of a difference he made on the Cincinnati Bengals’ roster (not much, if any). Did the Steelers really lack all that much at linebacker? Not enough to plead for Harrison to return.
When it time to go, it’s time to go. Players come and go, that’s the business of the NFL and these particular veterans might not be seeing a 2014 season, at least not in Pittsburgh.
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