Expect the Steelers’ defense to look a lot different in 2012 than it looked in 2011.
Although the Steelers have said they don’t want to tear things apart this offseason, the reality is that they’re currently slated to be about $25 million over the 2012 salary cap, which means there are going to be some difficult decisions to make. And many of those decisions will involve releasing longtime veteran starters on defense.
Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that multiple defensive starters will be cut before the league year starts on March 13. The names that could be gone include Aaron Smith, Bryant McFadden, James Farrior, Casey Hampton and Larry Foote.
On the other hand, Bouchette writes, several defensive players are untouchable: Troy Polamalu, LaMarr Woodley, James Harrison, Ike Taylor, Brett Keisel, Ryan Clark and Lawrence Timmons won’t be going anywhere, even though they’re all high-priced veterans.
The question in Pittsburgh is whether the right mixture of new acquisitions can blend in with those remaining veterans to keep the team near the top of the league on defense. The Steelers proved during the final 15 games of the regular season that Warren Sapp was wrong with his “old, slow, and it’s over” declaration after Week One. But the Steelers showed their age in the playoffs, and whether they like it or not, the salary cap is going to force them to get younger this year.