FanPost

Rebuilding Through Three Super Bowls

The Steelers are going to their third Super Bowl in six seasons. This year's team, however, is hardly the same as the team that went to Super Bowl XL or even XLIII. The Steelers management has been able to rebuild the team on the fly, keeping a core of veteran stars while adding and replacing the parts around them. As a result, the Steelers have a host of players with Super Bowl experience but several younger, hungrier players as well. Let's take a look at how it was done. Here is the starting defense for Super Bowls XL, XLIII, and XLV:

 

SB XL

SB XLIII

SB XLV

LE

Aaron Smith

Aaron Smith

Ziggy Hood

NT

Casey Hampton

Casey Hampton

Casey Hampton

RE

Kimo von Oelhoffen

Brett Keisel

Brett Keisel

LOLB

Clark Haggans

LaMarr Woodley

LaMarr Woodley

LILB

James Farrior

James Farrior

James Farrior

RILB

Larry Foote

Larry Foote

Lawrence Timmons

ROLB

Joey Porter

James Harrison

James Harrison

LCB

Ike Taylor

Ike Taylor

Ike Taylor

RCB

Deshea Townsend

Bryant McFadden

Bryant McFadden

SS

Troy Polamalu

Troy Polamalu

Troy Polamalu

FS

Chris Hope

Ryan Clark

Ryan Clark

 

Three-time starters in Bold, two-time starters in Italics. XLV starters projected based on Jets game.

This is a veteran, experienced defense. 9 of 11 starters also started in XLIII, and Timmons played in XLIII but did not start. Only Ziggy Hood lacks Super Bowl experience. Note that the unit has changed considerably from 2005, however, with Kiesel replacing Kimo, Woodley replacing Haggans, Harrison replacing Porter, McFadden replacing Townsend, and Clark replacing Hope. In the first four cases, the players were aging and losing effectiveness; management replaced them with younger and generally better players. (Porter was a Pro Bowler but never DPOY; Kimo and Haggans never went to the Pro Bowl; and Townsend merely serviceable). Hope played four seasons for the Steelers but left after getting a large contract from the Titans; Clark has been a solid replacement without breaking the bank, er, salary cap. The only starters in all three Super Bowls have been Hampton, Farrior, Ike, and of course Troy Polamalu. (Aaron Smith could join this list if he can somehow start in two weeks.)

 

SB XL

SB XLIII

SB XLV

QB

Ben Roethlisberger

Ben Roethlisberger

Ben Roethlisberger

RB

Willie Parker

Willie Parker

Rashard Mendenhall

FB

Dan Kreider

TE Matt Spaeth

David Johnson

WR

Hines Ward

Hines Ward

Hines Ward

WR

Antwaan Randle El

Santonio Holmes

Mike Wallace

TE

Heath Miller

Heath Miller

Heath Miller

LT

Marvell Smith

Max Starks

Jonathan Scott

LG

Alan Faneca

Chris Kemoeatu

Chris Kemoeatu

C

Jeff Hartings

Justin Hartwig

Pouncey/Legursky

RG

Kendall Simmons

Darnell Stapleton

Ramon Foster

RT

Max Starks

Willie Colon

Flozell Adams

 Three-time starters in Bold, two-time starters in Italics. XLV starters projected based on Jets game.

The offense has been in much greater flux, but the key players through all three games remain Big Ben, Hines, and Heath Miller. The only other offensive player to start in a previous Super Bowl is Kemo. The offensive line has almost completely turned over from the disappointing group that played in XLIII, although Starks and Colon would still be starting if not for injury. Typing in the names from XLV, however, reminded me of what a strong O-line that team had. Still, Mendenhall appears to be a slower but stronger replacement for Fast Willie Parker, and Wallace is already better than Randle El ever was and is catching up to Santonio. But with Hines slowing down and the weakness and injuries along the offensive line, this year's offense doesn't match up with the 2005 team's.

 

Overall, I would say the defensive personnel have improved from 2005, whereas the offense has fallen off a bit, mainly along the line. In any case, getting to three Super Bowls in six years (and winning at least two of them) is an impressive accomplishment in the salary cap era. The Steelers management has shown the ability to rebuild portions of the team quickly and effectively, without going through a long "rebuilding" phase that other franchises seem to go through. We can all be thankful for that.
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