As of this writing, the Steelers
have announced that Hines Ward
, Aaron Smith
, Chris K, and James Farrior
will be released by March 13. That is a serious amount of veteran leadershp to cut loose. There has also been talk that Casey Hampton
and Larry Foote
will soon follow the aforementioned gentlemen out of the door.
So, who leades the defense in the absense of Farrior? He has not only called the defensive plays on the field since 2004, but he is the unquestioned leader and captain of the defense. So, from a practical perspective, who takes his spot? I assume that it has to be Larry Foote and can only guess that any speculation about his impending release is just that, speculation. From an emotional, pre-game speech, get-the-troops-fired-up perspective, who takes over? Troy, Deebo, and Timmons are well-known for being quiet, Ike doesn't seem to have the personality for it, and Keisel doesn't have the gravitas or necessary force of will to really lead the Steelers defense. My guess is that Ryan Clark
will step up and become the emotional and spiritual leader in Farrior's absense. If nothing else, his willingness to lay the wood to WRs and RBs inspires the heck out of me...
I'm concerned about positional leadership. With Smith and Ward being released, who will become the leade of the WRs and DEs. It seems like a no-brainer that Keisel will assume Smith's mantle of leadership for the DEs, but he clearly has some big shoes to fill. Will it be enough? I love the Bearded One, but he is certainly not Smith from an athletic stand point, so there is at least a question about whether he will commmand the same level of respect from the cast of characters we have on the DL. Smtih's absense is also compounded by the fact that Hampton will be in rehab, rather than lending a hand in grooming our younger DL. I can only hope and assume that Hood, Heyward, and the rest have learned enough in their time in the system and that Coach Mitchell keeps the DL mill churning.
Offense is where my real concerns come into efffect. In Ward's absense, we can only assume that Ben is now the indisputable leader of that offense. Ward's style was "I will take your best shot, laugh at you, and then crush you later in the game." Ward was a "I'm going to hit you harder than you can hit me" style of leadership. Ben is more like Rocky Balboa in that he keeps taking the hits, gets up again to take more hits, and then delvers a knock out blow to win in the end. I don't see anyone else on the offense even being in the ballpark to
challenge or otherwise dispute Ben's role as the leader of the offense. What does this mean for the offense? Will it become, as it appeared last year, a rope-a-dope, wear them down kind of offense similar to Ben's playing style? What impact will Coach Haley have on this?
What does Ward's release mean for the WRs? Will the group lose the physiical style of play that Ward demonstrated for so long? Who will step up as the new leader for the WRs? Wallace has shown that he is not the same type of player as Ward, so I don't think he is the best candidate. Brown seems more willing to mix it up, but I'm still waiting for him to really lay a guy out. Cotchery appears to be similar to Brown in that he will block when he has to, but I hope that our WRs retain Ward's zeal for cracking back on DEs and LBs with reckless abandon. My guess s that Cotchery, if retained, will be the veteran that emerges as the leader of the WR position for the Steelers. What do you guys think?
Finally, what players, if any, do you think are still yet to released?