PITTSBURGH -- It has happened the past couple of years, and it certainly is inevitable that change will occur to the Pittsburgh Steelers once again.
It is widely believed that safety Ryan Clark, outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley and wideout Emmanuel Sanders won't be back next season. Others could be gone as well, but this group is the most prominent. Woodley was off-limits for comments, because he's on injured reserve. The others had their say.
"I think highly of this organization and this team,'' Sanders said. "It's a winning organization. We go about things the right way, (but) that's why these past two seasons have been so tough. The expectations haven't changed, though. They have always been to win. I really don't have any future expectations.
"I'm just going to let it all play itself out. (But) I caught a lot of balls this year, and people should know the type of player that I am. They know I can be a reliable player and a big-play receiver, and I can make plays. I know that, so we'll see how everything plays out in the next few months.''
Clark noted that playing the past eight seasons for the Steelers "has been an awesome experience,'' no matter how it plays our for him. He was just excited to see what happens next in his career.
"Obviously, I want to be here, and I want to play for the Steelers,'' Clark said. "I want to retire playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Most people don't even know that I played two other places (Washington Redskins and New York Giants), but I have. So, I'm also comfortable with that. Being an undrafted guy, being a free agent, and I realize how it goes.
"I understand it could be a slow process, so I'll wait it out. Until then, I'm going to put on a suit and go to Bristol (ESPN) and talk a little football. That's what I'd be doing over the phone with my friends every day anyway, so I might as well do it on TV and get a little experience doing that.''
One player who basically is on the bubble for the Steelers is defensive end Ziggy Hood. After five seasons, the former No. 1 pick generally has been an underachiever. He played well at times this season, but a decision has to be made on him as well.
"I don't know about my future, but that's up to the front office,'' Hood said. "So, I'm just going to keep working and keep pushing, and if they give me a call I'll be glad to come right back. That would be no problem at all. Of course, I would like to come back.
"My family's established here, and I've got a great relationship with the coaches and players. So, why wouldn't I want to come back? I guess it's all about business right now, but what I can do is work hard and stay in shape, stay out of trouble and keep my head up.''
There has been some speculation that Hood's future with the Steelers could be as a nose tackle. He's the strongest guy on the team, but he has been unable to play off blocks consistently as a D-end.
"I'll do whatever they ask me to do,'' Hood said. "As far as putting on any weight, I feel like I'm already strong enough. So, I think that would take away from my quickness and my speed on the field. So, I'll just have to buckle down and adjust, because it's all about technique when you play on the nose.''
Hood said that nothing has been formally discussed about his move to the nose.
"As far as me and Coach Mitch talking about it, no,'' Hood said. "But just in case something happens, I do know a little bit about playing nose, if worse-comes-to worse and I have to play it ... if somebody is hurt and we have no other nose. (But) it would be a positive for my career, because I guess it would mean more playing time and the opportunity to make plays for this defense.''
When will Hood begin preparing for next season?
"Shoot, for me to take any time off ... any time I take a week off or something like that, I always feel sluggish trying to get back into it,'' Hood added. "So, I'll probably take a day or two off after New Year's to celebrate with my family, and after that I'll get back to work.''
Rookie Jarvis Jones is one player who showed improvement at the end of the season, and his future appears to be bright.
"I've got to work harder than I've ever done before, physically and mentally for this game,'' Jones said. "What I mean by that is that I've got to get bigger and stronger and in the best shape I've ever been in.
"And the mental part of it, I've got to continue to learn this game of football and continue to grasp the little things that are going to make me a better player. That's the best way to get better.''
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