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Steelers veteran defense could be headed for last roundup

Pittsburgh Steelers v Oakland Raiders Getty Images

The Steelers expect safety Troy Polamalu and linebacker James Harrison to get back on the field this weekend, and back to fixing a defense that has missed them in recent weeks.

But how much longer they’re going to be able to keep the core of players which have led a dominant together remains to be seen.

With seven starters over 30 (Harrison, Polamalu, Ike Taylor, Ryan Clark, Larry Foote, Brett Keisel and Casey Hampton), a group which has a combined 887 games with the Steelers will likely start to be dismantled because of a combination of performance and finances.

It is a natural evolution of this business,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin told Alex Marvez of FoxSports.com. “Any of us that are in [the NFL] have to accept it on one level or another whether it’s coaches or players. That’s the mentality I have regarding it.”

All seven of those veterans were there when Tomlin arrived in 2007, and helped him win a Super Bowl. But how long he can hang onto those old heads will determine the direction of the franchise.

They’re still ranked fifth in the league in total defense, but haven’t played that way, giving up 34 and 31 on the road in losses to the Broncos and Raiders. They only have five sacks in three games. Do Polamalu and Harrison make that much of a difference?

“I think that’s why you see things so different when one guy is out,” Clark said. “We’re so built on chemistry and have been around each other for so long. It’s not necessarily the physical play that each player brings. It’s also what they bring with camaraderie, the way things flow on the field.

“When one guy’s missing, it is tough for us to pick it up and understand, ‘We’ve got to find a way to make it work without this piece of the puzzle.’ More than any team, I think we fit as puzzle pieces.”

The Steelers, as an organization, has excelled over the years by knowing when to hang on, and when to let go. But as this group ages, the hard choices are coming.

“We’re not trying to strike a balance [with age],” Tomlin said. “We’re going with the guys who are capable of playing. We’ve got some veteran guys who are still good players. As long as they remain that, they’ll continue to play. We’ve got some young guys with some promise who are working.

“When they’re good enough to play, they’ll be in there.”

Sunday will be an early indication of whether that day’s coming sooner or later.

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15 Responses to “Steelers veteran defense could be headed for last roundup”
  1. thegreatgabbert says: Oct 5, 2012 1:17 PM

    Steelers are considering bringing Dick LeBeau out of retirement to play cornerback. To inject a little fresh energy into the lineup.

  2. Stiller43 says: Oct 5, 2012 1:23 PM

    “do harrison and polamalu make that big of a difference?”

    Two elite players who are playmakers?…YES

  3. 3yardsndust says: Oct 5, 2012 1:24 PM

    I’m a lifelong fan, but these guys have not played well this year. The guys behind the starters do not play with any fire when they get in the game, and the starters seem tired, unmotivated, or out of position. It’s been pretty sad to watch. I hope things change soon for the better.

  4. ravenator says: Oct 5, 2012 1:26 PM

    This team is so old! I can’t wait to watch the Eagles own them at home

  5. macjacmccoy says: Oct 5, 2012 1:26 PM

    I get why everyone is so excited about Troy, Harrison, and Mendenhall returning. There big names, but I think people need to temper there expectations when it comes to the Steelers doing a 180 in how there team performs this week. These guys are coming off of injuries and havent played football for weeks and in some cases months. Thinking they will be able to come right in and play like there pro bowl selves is naive.

    Heck having these guys back in the starting lineup my actually hurt the team this week. Now Im not nuts I know these guys are alot better then there replacements, but its gonna take them time to get 100% healthy and back in the groove of playing football. So even though getting them back in the lineup as soon as possible is the best thing for team its not necessarily the best thing for this week’s game.

    Basically my point is people should stop pointing to the return of these guys as the reason why this week they will be the Steelers we are all use to and that being why they beat the Eagles. Im not saying they wont win just that if they do it wont be bc of the return of Polamalu Harrison and Mendenhall but in spite of them.

  6. macjacmccoy says: Oct 5, 2012 1:29 PM

    Just as an Eagles fan I perfer having them in the lineup out of football shape and not at 100% over the guys who have been filling in for them.

  7. tedmurph says: Oct 5, 2012 1:41 PM

    No worries, steeler fans will remain in denial.

  8. southpaw2k says: Oct 5, 2012 2:07 PM

    Ha…and people say the Ravens are getting old on defense.

  9. pgh15212 says: Oct 5, 2012 2:22 PM

    Those players allowed me to dance in the streets of Pittsburgh as my favorite team won it all.

    Twice.

    You gotta love em!

  10. boothisman says: Oct 5, 2012 2:50 PM

    Every year people say ‘Steelers defense getting old’ and every year the Steelers put out a #1 or #2 defense. Guess if you just keep saying it, one of these years you might be right.

  11. phillyphannn83 says: Oct 5, 2012 3:05 PM

    I agree with macjacmccoy, I’m not worried about them returning, I’m relishing it. We’ve seen first hand what a rusty vet looks like. Vick had all of 12 snaps in the preseason and everyone knows how sloppy he played the first 3 weeks. These guys are not going to be in any sort of groove when they hit the field, sorry Pitt fans, its the truth.
    Eagles 24 – Steelers 17

  12. rexryanseacrest says: Oct 5, 2012 3:10 PM

    macjacmccoy says:
    “There big names, but I think people need to temper there expectations when it comes to the Steelers doing a 180 in how there team performs this week.”

    Look, I’m not trying to be mean here, but you used the word “there” incorrectly three times in one sentence. No one is going to take you seriously here or in life if you can’t figure out the simple difference between there/they’re/their. I cringed reading that.

    And did you really say that if the Steelers win this weekend, it will be in spite of Harrison, Polamalu, and Mendenhall? That’s ridiculous. We’re not talking about three Kevin Kolbs here. Two of those guys are not far removed from pro bowl seasons.

  13. vincentbojackson says: Oct 5, 2012 3:38 PM

    The fact that it’s newsworthy that the Steelers slide to #5 in total defense tells you how high the bar is raised in Pittsburgh.

    The “experts” have trying to throw dirt on this unit for years. Warren Sapp foolishly did it last year before they ended up the #1 overall unit. Sapp’s credibility as an analyst was destroyed in the process.

  14. bobzilla1001 says: Oct 6, 2012 1:06 PM

    Let’s get the facts straight: The Steelers’ defense allowed the Broncos to score 24 points, not 31, in the season-opener. Roethlisberger threw a pick-six to seal the win for Denver…
    And that brings me to a petpeeve: only the ACTUAL points scored by offenses and only the ACTUAL points allowed by defenses in the “PF” and “PA” section of team standings should be included.
    When I pick up a newspaper to check the standings, I want accurate and precise information. Crediting offenses with defensive’s TDs and penalizing defenses for offensive mistakes are neither accurate or precise.

  15. slammer69 says: Oct 6, 2012 6:15 PM

    Let’s get everyone heal , inplace , ready to go (which hasn’t happen over a year) with a few games under their belt before dropping the “OVER THE HILL CARD”.

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