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Never fear, Steelers Nation, because Omar Khan and company are here

After years of neglect, the Steelers new collection of decision makers are focusing their full attention on rebuilding the trenches.

NFL: DEC 12 Seahawks at Texans Photo by John Rivera/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers are making a concerted effort to return to their roots. The principles that lead to the winning culture that resulted in a league best 6 Lombardi Trophies collecting dust in their trophy case at franchise headquarters.

While the New England Patriots franchise have tied the Steelers with 6 total titles recently, no other franchise can match their sustained success. The Steelers are the most stable and consistent franchise in the business.

The standard is the standard. Those words are more than a slogan, they are a mission statement for a proud franchise. Aging superstars have passed the meaning of those words down to their young apprentices over the decades to assure that excellence was the only acceptable outcome.

Team success took precedent over personal production, and no legacy compared to the Black and Gold. That was once true, but free agency has forever changed how the modern professional views their legacy. If a player isn’t satisfied with their current situation, or their financial compensation, they will often force their employer's hand and facilitate a trade.

It's much more difficult to impart and uphold a standard when the majority of players are one to two year rentals. The Steelers have learned that lesson the hard way in recent seasons, especially at multiple positions previously renowned for their commitment to excellence.

Nowhere has the previous standard fallen farther than at inside linebacker. The list of Steelers legends at the position is too long to mention, but the hard earned standard cultivated over the previous half century has been missing in action since the career ending injury to Ryan Shazier, and the surprising retirement of Vince Williams.

The performance of the Steelers inside linebacker position has been nothing short of embarrassing in recent seasons. The Steelers front office obviously agreed, and apparently had seen enough. You want to know why I feel comfortable making that statement? Because the Steelers previous coach at the position, and the top 3 most experienced players on the roster, are no longer with the team. Now that's how you make a statement as a franchise. If you are incapable, or unwilling to live up to the standard, we will find someone else who will.

Not every instance of the franchise failing to live up to the standard they created can be blamed on the players. Some of that blame falls squarely on the shoulders of the Steelers front office. Particularly when you breakdown the cause and effect reasoning behind the slow but steady decline in both trenches, which has long been viewed as the foundations of the franchise.

Simply put, former Steelers GM Kevin Colbert failed to focus enough resources on the Steelers foundation. He basically refused to invest early round draft capital on the trenches for over a decade, although he consistently lacked the cap space to adequately address the situation in free agency, and the standard for both the offensive and defensive lines diminished during this time.

New Steelers GM Omar Khan, and his assistant Andy Weidl, have already shown a renewed commitment to rebuilding the trenches for the franchise. They have already utilized free agency to acquire promising young depth in Nate Herbig, plus the most accomplished guard free agency had to offer in Isaac Seumalo. Feels like the standard for the offensive line received a much needed shot of adrenaline and talent.

Now the Steelers dynamic duo needs to turn their free agency attention to the defensive line. The Steelers currently have two proven starters in Cameron Heyward and Larry Ogunjobi, surrounded by questionable depth at best. While I feel certain that the Steelers are planning on addressing the defensive line early in the upcoming NFL Draft, it would behoove the Steelers to bring in some affordable veteran muscle during the second wave of free agency.

That's where the Pacific Northwest enters this discussion, and the Seattle Seahawks in particular. Similar to the Steelers this offseason at inside linebacker, the Seahawks have utilized this offseason to do some serious spring cleaning along their defensive line. Four players who received meaningful minutes for the franchise in 2022 are currently available in free agency; Poona Ford, Al Woods, Shelby Harris, and Quinton Jefferson.

Each gentlemen is available, but for various reasons. The Seahawks desire to clear needed cap space, plus get younger along their defensive front, appears to have facilitated the Seahawks decisions. But you know what they say, "One man's trash is another man's treasure." All four offer proven production at a serious area of need for the Steelers.

If Al Woods sounds familiar to Steelers fans, there's a good reason. Woods played for the franchise early in his NFL career. If his name doesn't ring a bell for you, there's good reason for that as well. His short tenure in Pittsburgh buried deep on the depth chart was far from memorable.

Woods is a 35 years old classic nose tackle with excellent length and a solid anchor. That's what he is, a big bodied behemoth who knows how to anchor effectively against double teams. He could offer valuable experience to a young understudy, but not much of an upgrade.

Shelby Harris was a long time standout for the Denver Broncos, before being traded to the Seahawks prior to last season in the massive Russell Wilson trade package. Harris had a solid season for the Seahawks in 2022, but his play didn't justify his pay. Harris is a seasoned veteran at 31, and he knows all the tricks of the trade. He is undersized for the Steelers 3-4, at 6'2" and under 300 lbs., but he could prove effective if utilized correctly. Another possible mentor, but only on a short term team friendly deal.

Quinton Jefferson is an intriguing possibility in my opinion. Jefferson is a 29 years old defensive end with solid size and pass rush ability, evidenced by his career high 5.5 QB sacks in 2022. Last year's success could be a precursor of things to come, as Jefferson should be viewed as a late bloomer. He was released in a salary cap move, but don't be surprised if the Seahawks try to bring him back on a more team friendly deal, unless a team like the Steelers do it first. Jefferson could be inexpensive experienced depth behind Heyward and Ogunjobi, basically filling the void left by Chris Wormley's departure. He could also mentor Isaiahh Loudermilk on how to overcome an underwhelming start to an NFL career.

That brings us to Poona Ford, easily the best of the bunch. Ford is a bowling ball with legs, standing a shade under 6' tall. He utilizes his short stature and explosive nature to his advantage on the interior, gaining instant leverage on many occasions. He doesn't generate a lot of sacks, usually only 2 or 3 per season, but he accumulates an impressive amount of pressures, showing the ability to consistently flush the QB from the pocket.

Ford is only 27 at the moment, and has improved each season of his NFL career with the Seahawks, after going undrafted in 2018 out of Texas. Ford plays with admirable intensity, spotlighting a notable chip on his shoulder, mostly like due to his undrafted beginnings. He would undoubtedly be an immediate upgrade for the Steelers.

So why hasn't Ford already been snatched up in free agency. I believe it's because of his projected worth. One prominent site estimates his value around 9 million a season. That maybe a little steep for a lot of franchises, including the Steelers, to spend on a defensive tackle with obvious physical shortcomings, pun intended.

I have the utmost faith in Khan and company to do their due diligence scanning what remains of the free agent market along the defensive line, looking for the next potential fit. It remains to be seen if any of the aforementioned players could meet the standard, but I believe each deserved a closer look.