May 3, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers first round draft pick linebackerJarvis Jones
(95) listens to linebackers coachKeith Butler
(left) in drills during Steelers rookie mincamp and orientation at the UPMC Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
According to a study done by ESPN’s Mike and Mike, as of May 2014, the Steelers had the oldest starting defense in the NFL. The average age of their players on defense was 30.1 years old. Seven of their 11 starters were over the age of 30.
The release of Jason Worilds could swing that number either way. At 27 years of age, the Steelers could get older or younger depending on whomever they replace him with. However, the most recent rumor that the Steelers may be entering the 2015 season without their Future Hall of Fame safety Troy Polamalu. His release means the defense will definitely be getting younger.
Without going into too much detail, the Steelers are rumored to be hoping that the soon to be 34-year-old safety retires so that they do not have to go through the awkward transaction of releasing the fan favorite.
It would make sense for the Steelers to release Polamalu though. He has missed 11 games in the last three seasons. He did not record a sack or intercept a pass last season either. Couple that with the fact that releasing Polamalu can save the Steelers north of $3 million big ones, and it is a very realistic possibility that he finds the exit door regardless of his decision.
While it is a little much to say the Steelers may be going through a full-fledged rebuild, it seems accurate that the team is prepping itself for the Keith Butler era.
Polamalu is rumored to be on the way out. Worilds is gone. And the man who maintained the reputation of the Steelers’ defense, Dick Lebeau, has moved on as well. Even with LeBeau gone, there have been reports suggesting the defense will maintain the same scheme. This may be true, but it doesn’t always work that way, case and point, Cincinnati last season.
The one thing almost everyone can bank on is the Steelers will not do much in free agency. The team follows the mantra of the AFC North: extend your own, build through the draft, and don’t take splash risks in the market.
Not only will it be interesting to see how Pittsburgh replaces Dick Lebeau, Jason Worilds and Troy Polamalu, but also how they deal with James Harrison‘s career coming to a close, and a secondary that hasn’t improved much over the last five years. Couple that with Ike Taylor‘s age, and the Steel City may be in for a rebuild.