While the Steelers made few changes to their roster after their Super Bowl run in 2010, this upcoming season sees enough change to warrant GM Kevin Colbert stating that the team is not rebuilding but merely, "retooling."
With free agency one month away (March 13th), the Steelers will have plenty of names on the market as they are currently $10-20 million over the salary cap. The roster will also look different considering some of the moves made, already.
Chris Hoke: retired. Aaron Smith: retired. Bryant McFadden: cut. Bruce Arians: retired/cut. Rumors around the NFL are pointing to Hines Ward possibly leaving the Steelers albeit, against his will. Meanwhile, Casey Hampton's position on the team could be heavily influenced by the draft as he is set to make $4.9 million next season and, oh by the way, he has a torn ACL and won't be able to practice for training camp (where he usually shows up heavily out of shape) much less a game.
The speculation surrounding roster moves will circle the team until July. At this time, it is impossible to know which players the Steelers will keep and which ones they will cut. However, one thing is certain: the roster for the 2012 season will have significant changes.
The Steelers have an aging defense and a bright, young offense. They are not a carbon copy of the Steelers teams from the early 80s; slowly fading as a collective team. With the oldest player on their offense 29 years old (Roethlisberger), the team has plenty of years left to make a Super Bowl run. But they need to upgrade their defense and they need more production out of their offense.
Insert Todd Haley.
A Pittsburgher, a former Steelers' ball boy, a fiery coach who clashes with players and coaches. He was not brought in to be Ben's friend. He was brought in to teach the offense how to put up points; an offense that hasn't touched the top ten in scoring since 2007 despite having an elite quarterback and superb talent at wide receiver.
While it is important to have the quarterback's interests in mind when creating an offensive gameplan, it is not his job to run the offense on the sidelines. That will be left for Haley, an offensive coordinator who saw three wide receivers reach 1000 yards in the same season down in Arizona and then, as a head coach, created the number one rushing offense in the league with Kansas City. Haley is a chameleon with his plan, Ben needs to be too.
The 2012 season already looks to be filled with story lines as the team moves into Spring with several questions. Will Hines Ward be a Steeler? Can Ben and Todd Haley work together? Will the defense take a giant step back? Will they regroup for another stellar season? Can the offense carry the team? What will be some of the position battles in camp (since there were none last year)?
Those questions will be answered and a few of them could be answered in the next few days.