Steelers made second fewest changes to roster in 2013

Vincent Pugliese-USA TODAY Sport

The changes the Steelers made from an 8-8 season in 2012 to 2013 weren't as frequent as most other teams in the league, but they were the right kinds of changes. Due to injuries, the benefits of those changes may not be realized right away.

Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert justified the lack of desire to bring back outside linebacker James Harrison and wide receiver Mike Wallace by saying they were 8-8 players who contributed to an 8-8 team.

Maybe that was all just pre-draft rhetoric.

Or, maybe the Steelers didn't feel they were really all that far off last season with the players they had.

The addition of tight end Matt Spaeth and nickel back William Gay addressed two important needs for the team heading into 2013; providing depth in a secondary that was stuck between older and experienced and young and unproven, and getting the right components to build a successful outside zone running scheme.

The loss of Spaeth for what looks to be half the season at least is a much more critical blow than is being considered right now. The difference between Spaeth and David Paulson in terms of run-blocking could be the largest gap between two non-quarterbacks next to each other on a depth chart in the league.

Spaeth could be seen as a better run blocker than the injured Heath Miller, but the plan was for the two of them to flank either tackle, with an experienced outside zone runner like Le'Veon Bell in the backfield, and versatile receivers Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders split to either side. That kind of dynamic group of skill players would give a creative playcaller like Todd Haley several different plays out of different variations of that front.

They could do a lot of damage with it. But Spaeth's injury hurts this offense much more than has been discussed to this point. Paulson is a limited player who, all things equal, would not see the field outside of special teams. Bell is hurt, leaving the Steelers running back position once again up in the air.

The moves the team made as far as adding players may not have created much of a difference in terms of total turnover, but it would have made a big difference if all of them were healthy at the same time.

When they are, it will be fun to watch. Until then, we'll have to see if quarterback Ben Roethlisberger can generate enough out of what's there to make an impact.

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