Football season is not over but Steelers season is. That springboards the team into preparing for next year. For the first time in almost a decade, this team is going to have a very different look to it going into next year. However, there are limitations to what they can change immediately due to salary cap issues as well as talent issues. But one way or another this team needs to get younger on both sides of the ball and get more talented at certain positions in order to continue to compete.
The issues on this team are unquestionably on the defensive side of the ball but that isn't where the biggest story is. The story is with Hines Ward and whether or not the Steelers will bring him back. He has already made it public that he does not want to retire and will go elsewhere to play if it is necessary. That being said, there is one way and one way only where it would make some sense to resign him. He would have to sign for very little money and that should only be offered if Jerricho Cotchery goes somewhere else in free agency in hopes of having a more prominent role on another team. If that were to happen, Ward could be back just to have a body but he wouldn't be used. This man is a Pittsburgh legend but the time has come and he has nothing left.
Now to the defensive side of the ball. This unit needs a complete makeover. In a Dick Lebeau defense, the front seven is just as crucial to the success of the pass defense as the secondary is. They did a good job this season in stopping plays from happening but they lacked the step that they used to have to make the big play. This team had a deficiency when it came to creating turnovers. A lot of that could be attributed to LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison very rarely being on the field at the same time. It could also be attributed to Lawrence Timmons having a less than stellar year. One reason why those three guys may have had all those problems this year is because they were asked to do too much.
Aaron Smith is a fan favorite in this city for what he has done in his time as a Steeler but the man hasn't played much in three seasons. It is time for him to go. Casey Hampton is a mammoth of a man, he isn't getting any younger, and he's not taking up double teams like he used to. That is a bad combination for a 3-4 defensive tackle but he could find himself sticking just because of the lack on an immediate replacement. Chris Hoke had been that backup for Hampton in previous years but after requiring neck surgery after getting injured this year, it looks like his career is over. James Farrior epitomizes the perception that this defense is old and slow. It's not the defense. It's him. He is the defense's Hines Ward. A high draft pick should be spent on addressing inside linebacker and he needs to go.
Those are just the guys that I feel the Steelers need to address right now. There are plenty of other positions where this team is getting older that don't need addressed immediately. Every other starter on that defense that I haven't mentioned are in their 30's except for William Gay. The offense also has other areas to address that aren't age related. There are only three offensive linemen that are under contract going into next season and one of those is Chris Kemoeatu who I believe should just be cut.
The Steelers are in an interesting position as a franchise. Their window of winning championships has not closed, yet they are in a transitioning period. The Steelers have proved in the past that they have the ability to handle personnel changes in these times while remaining contenders. I expect nothing less from the front office this time around but Kevin Colbert is definitely going to earn his money because I don't recall another offseason that required as much of an overhaul as this one does.