Back in the 1980′s one of my favorite hard rock bands was Tesla (who never seemingly got the credit they deserved for ushering in the ‘unplugged’ craze that started with Nirvana) and they had a song called “Changes.” The song came to mind as I started to think about the Steelers in 2011 who will and must, look different than they did this year. Here are my thoughts on the 13 players whose contracts are now up.
- Willie Colon (OT)- Colon suffered a torn achilles in off-season workouts and there were reports late this past season that the team may have goofed in placing Colon on IR because he may have been able to help out. Not sure how accurate those reports are, but nevertheless, this is a guy that the Steelers need to re-sign.
- Trai Essex(G)- He’s proven that he is a quality back-up and if the price is right, should be re-signed unless the team is ready to go in a completely different direction.
- Dennis Dixon (QB)- Dixon proved prior to his injury that he is a serviceable quarterback in this league. The team was certainly conservative with him and I get that, but I didn’t think Bruce Arians used him nearly as well as he could have. With Charlie Batch and Byron Leftwich long in the tooth, re-signing DD is a good move.
- Mewelde Moore (RB)- MeMo was a great signing a few years back and more than proved his worth on many occasions for the Steelers. Entering his 8th year next season, I’m not sure about his playing time simply due to injury and the numbers game that NFL teams face in the running back position. With only Mendenhall and Redman seeing minutes ahead of him, he might be worth a short-term deal, but I think we’ve seen the last of him in Pittsburgh.
- Matt Spaeth (TE)- If you had to choose between David Johnson and Spaeth, you’d probably stick with #89, but Johnson is still under contract. Neither guy is a tremendous blocker or great receiver so I can see a new guy coming in here. A lot depends upon Bruce Arians status as OC, but I can see Spaeth being shown the door.
- Tony Hills (OT)- This is a toss-up. Hills has youth and size, but did not play all that well when he had the chance. Not sure I see him coming back.
- Daniel Sepulveda (P)- The guy does well for the most part when he isn’t injured so I think the front office can pretty much name its’ own price here considering the injury history. I definitely think he’ll be back at a lower price.
- Keyaron Fox (ILB)- The Special Teams captain this year is most fondly remembered for his personal foul on the kick off prior to our futile last drive of Super Bowl XLV. He’s a good guy to have on special teams, but entering his 8th year and with the number of stupid penalties he takes, I don’t see him being offered a new deal.
- Chris Hoke (NT)- Hoke is entering his 10th year and seemed to get less playing time this season. He’s a solid vet, great locker room guy, but not sure what he has left. Between he and Casey Hampton, they have 20+ years at nose tackle. I believe the FO will try to get younger and look elsewhere, but his coming back would not be a surprise.
- Ike Taylor (CB)- If Ike could catch, he would have been in the Pro Bowl perhaps 2 or 3 times, but this doesn’t mean he isn’t a good corner. He still covers well and tackles as well as most corners in the League. Rumors persist that he may try the market and more power to him if he does, but with our pathetic secondary, his re-signing is paramount.
- LaMarr Woodley (OLB)- With James Harrison already having a huge contract, what can the Steelers afford to pay Woodley? He has been solid in his 4 years and steps his game up during crunch-time as well. I wonder if the team will tinker with him moving down to defensive end, a position he thrived at in college at Michigan. This would make the D-line younger and open a spot for Jason Worilds to show what he can do. Either way, Wood is a Steeler and I see him being re-signed.
- Shaun Suisham (PK)- Sushi did well in his ‘rent-a-kicker’ role for the Steelers following the release of Jeff Reed, but I am confident the team will go in a different direction here, possibly even the draft. Suisham’s failed 53-yarder in the Super Bowl is an image Steelers’ fan won’t soon forget.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Steelers have to get younger, especially on defense. With the possible departure of James Farrior due to retirement and the predictable release of cornerback William Gay, the Steelers have to start giving guys like Stevenson Sylvester and Crezdon Butler a shot. Offensively, skill positions are set except for maybe a different 3rd down back. Some changes along the O-line are necessary and again, will personnel be dictated by a possible change of coordinators?
THE FINAL SPEW: Former Michigan QB Tate Forcier is transfering to Miami, FL. He saw the writing on the wall with the emergence of Denard Robinson and besides, transferring is in the family DNA…. Even in death, Tupac Shakur is causing problems. This time for the ‘Pac12.’…. Apparently the Super Bowl almost broke Twitter…. John Avalon asks if ‘Right-Wing Radio’ is dying. I ask, can’t they all die and let the independent thinkers run the damn show? Video of the day is UConn QB who also happens to be a trick-throw artist. Cool.