Though I'm tempted, I'm not quite foolish enough to begin untangling the very interesting decisions that will potentially be addressed in the coming months by Coach Mike Tomlin, the Rooneys, Mr. Colbert. It's going to take some time to work through it all so I'll save my two cents and just provide a little bit of a framework for what might be worth discussing.
I personally thought it was pretty darn interesting to see how Tomlin and his staff would handle making tough choices personnel wise and in how he adjusted his program after a 2007 playoff appearance. Well, comparatively speaking, last year was nothing like this year. After a Super Bowl, the temptation to be complacent and not make calculated refinements must be so much greater.
And that's really just in terms of how he manages his 'program'. Then there's personnel decisions.
Every last player on the roster who will have been around Tomlin for two years now seemingly thinks the world of him. Tomlin demanded a lot. The players delivered in spades and each step of the way, a special chemistry was built between from top to bottom. Now it may be time to part ways with some who sacrificed and bought in to what Tomlin preached. Sure, NFL players aren't suckers. They know it's a business and say so all the time. Still, it's never easy saying goodbye. A roster in many ways is a collection of 53 commodities to be traded, sold, scrapped, etc. But no matter how stringent teams must be financially, these 'commodities' are actually players with human emotions.
So, let's see what happens this offseason as the organization might have to make some very tough decisions had the team lost in the 1st round again, let alone won it all. Tomlin seems like he was born for this but we've yet to see how he responds to several things - plowing ahead when it's tempting to stand pat; and how to rebound from legitimate adversity. We'll find out about the former soon enough. Hopefully we won't have to find out about the latter anytime soon, but surely that day will come down the road. Maybe not until Big Ben retires, but the day will come :)
So, here are some of the decisions to be made as I see it. I will just provide some framework for discussion then you jump in with your thoughts. Of course, add other questions to consider as well as you see fit.
- BACK-UP QB - we seem to be in agreement that Leftwich will be seeking a starting role. What then to do about Charlie Batch? He's a free agent. Batch surely won't expect to start anywhere, but what kind of paycut might he be willing to take to stay in Pittsburgh? For your reference, Batch made close to 3.5 times as much as Lefty this year. We have Dennis Dixon as a reserve as well, but not sure the organization will want to have Dixon as the #2 considering the state of our OL. Maybe 2a or 2b - but it's hard to imagine we'd have a Brian St. Pierre type of backup joining Dennis as Ben's backups. Who might we add that's out there to fill Leftwich's role?
GUARDS - Don't forget, Kendall Simmons will be back next year. Hopefully he's been hungry (not literally though, he's plenty rotund) to get back to form and has been rehabbing intensely. We have Chris Kemoeatu about to become a Free Agent. Do we keep him? Stapleton going to be a part of the plans?
- RESHUFFLING OFFENSIVE LINE - Possibility the team moves Willie Colon to G from T? Possibility the team uses Stapleton at C some in the future while keeping Kemo?
- NATE WASHINGTON - I've heard plenty of opinions here - some that I think are overstated - like Nate would be a #1 on some teams or no worse than a #2 on almost all teams. Not sure I agree there. Financial implications here, for sure. Only way to get to the crux of it is to try to get as much information about other similar guys - age, contracts after similar production, etc etc.
DEFENSIVE LINE DEPTH - What was a hot button topic last offseason nearly fell off the radar alltogether by year's end this year. We had some injuries in the early part of the year, then lost B. Keisel for a bit later on, but whew, no harm no foul I suppose. Casey Hampton and Aaron Smith aren't getting any younger though. Is it time to finally allocate some resources via FA or the Draft to this area? Guys like T. Kirschke and Chris Hoke - they're great backups. But they're not developing and just waiting in the pipeline like a Lawrence Timmons is.
- FREE AGENT POSSIBILITIES - Who will be this year's Justin Hartwig, Mewelde Moore, Keyaron Fox type of signing? That's hard to forecast of course, but each we follow the game as fans, we get a better understanding of it. Knowing what we do now about the backgrounds of Moore, Fox and Hartwig prior to signing here - can we find similar circumstances for undervalued talent on other rosters? They're out there!
That's plenty to start with. I'll be eager to hear some of your reactions when I return from a meeting I'm very much looking forward to this afternoon.
P.S. Isn't it fun getting to mull things over after a Super Bowl victory?