Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE
A few roles the Steelers need filled for the 2013 season, and the players who can fill those roles.
Them's the breaks, though.
After an 8-8 season, general manager put the team on notice; .500 is not acceptable. While .500 is admittedly rare for this franchise, it's unacceptable nontheless.
So what kinds of traits did teams of the past have that the Steelers must again find? Different roles, different players who bring in different skill sets and abilities. Not all of them are directly related to the gridiron; locker room cohesion and leadership in film study are important dynamics as well.
If we were to pick a few general labels of success, and match them with a corresponding Steelers player or coach, what would we have?
Enforcer - Lawrence Timmons
Someone needs to spearhead the efforts to exert the will of the Steelers on their opponents. One guy who's certain to be on the team and will be asked to lead this defense is their emerging inside linebacker. Timmons had monster performances at times this season, and should be even better in 2013. The Steelers will need him to make more plays, particularly in forcing fumbles, as the Steelers will look to again be among the best run defenses in the NFL.
Brain - Ben Roethlisberger
The Steelers quarterback is usually referred to as different things, but he's not stupid on a football field. A bit eager, perhaps. Contrary to popular opinion after the loss at Dallas this year, it's a good thing if he has issues with the playcalling. All that means is he and offensive coordinator Todd Haley have an opportunity to get together and get on the same page. That's a benefit for the entire team. Roethlisberger's position requires him to voice those kinds of concerns, and work positively to get things moving in the right direction.
Technician - Jason Worilds
A likely 2013 starter at right outside linebacker, Worilds has enormous shoes to fill. Nothing establishes value for a young player better than coming in and playing the game correctly from a technical perspective. A nod should be given to Cam Heyward, but we're going to save him for something else.
Loose cannon - Cam Heyward
And there it is. Heyward got in multiple brawls this past training camp, and anger and aggression, when controlled, can be the most valuable resource a player has. He's going to need to use that within the confines of what the defense needs him to do, and use his outstanding strength and athleticism to the detriment of the opposing blocker.
Motivator - Antonio Brown
Brown mentioned he wants to retire a Steeler. That's a good thing. Before he does that, though, he's going to need to become a leader of this team on and off the field. With the likely departure of Mike Wallace, and low level of production from Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery, the Steelers will not only have new players at the wide receiver position, but will lean on Brown even more to bring that group together for better production than it had in 2012.
Prankster - Mike Tomlin
Bear with me. He doesn't need to be a clown, but the ultra-serious Tomlin does a great job of delivering well-timed speeches and motivational ploys. Injecting some humor to help calm down a team that's transitioning to become much younger would be beneficial. Tomlin's an outstanding leader, and has a good sense of timing. A joke or two here and there would go a long way.
Muscle - Steve McLendon
If Casey Hampton is let go, and if McLendon is going to play at nose tackle or defensive end, his strength is going to have to be a cornerstone for that defensive line. He's shown outstanding explosion in his pass rush, and if he can continue to improve his lower body strength and be able to occupy blockers as well as blow past them, he could be an outstanding player on a game-to-game basis.