What’s happened in Pittsburgh over the last few seasons is a departure from what has made them successful in the past. Sporting a dominant defense and a power running game have been staples of Steelers teams since the 70’s. Pittsburgh has always been a tough team to play against physically, a team other franchises wanted to avoid if possible. Somewhere along the way the Steelers lost that edge. Whether it’s from a change in philosophy, or their inability to produce a decent pass rusher this team has lost it’s identity. Where is the Gregg Loyd, Joey Porter, or younger version of James Harrison?? Where is the Jack Lambert, Ryan Clark, or Levon Kirkland?? The Steelers have become “easy” to play against. They don’t have a player or players other teams fear.
GM Kevin Colbert must shoulder much of the blame for this shortfall. His failures in the draft on the defensive side of the ball cannot be overlooked. In particular the linebacker position has given him the most trouble, and it’s the position that historically has set the tone for the tough Steelers defenses of the past. Since taking over in 2000, he has drafted only one Pro-Bowl linebacker….. Lawrence Timmons. The list of linebackers he has drafted in his tenure is sub par at best. Names like Jarvis Jones, Jason Worilds, and Bruce Davis are just a few of the many misses Colbert has drafted. One seeming bright spot was James Harrison, but he was not a draft pick of the Steelers. Harrison wasn’t drafted all, he was signed as a undrafted free agent after being cut several times. Can we really give Colbert credit for signing what he must have thought was just a camp body at the time? Ryan Shazier may be the first superstar linebacker of the Colbert era, but his lack of size and tendency to get hurt may derail that. Bud Dupree has promise, but there’s no certainty that he will become the intimidating pass rusher the Steelers sorely lack.
Ironically Colbert’s offensive draft picks have Pittsburgh on the verge of a Super Bowl, but his defensive moves may keep them from getting attaining the ultimate goal. There’s no questioning his ability to draft skill position players. The Steelers are loaded on that side of the ball. Because of this, they are becoming a pass happy team that lacks balance.
Where does ownership stand on this situation? Dan Rooney may have already tipped his hand last offseason by all but demanding the team fix it’s problems in the secondary through draft. It’s a sign the owner has grown tired of watching this un-Steeler like defense. If Pittsburgh struggles on defense again this year, someone could end up paying the price with their job. Colbert better hope that Bud Dupree comes back and restores some of that fear the Steelers are known for, or a change may be in store at seasons end.