The words of Warren Sapp still ring true for Pittsburgh Steelers fans. Words 'old' and 'slow' continuously repeated in fans' minds, but not anymore. When articles were constantly constantly being written about the Steelers having one of the oldest rosters in the league, that trend certainly has changed in recent years.
In fact, in a recent ESPN Insiders article, they ranked all 32 teams by their talent under the age of 25. The Steelers ranked 5th on the list, a vast improvement from their 16th ranking in 2014. See what ESPN Insiders had to say about the Steelers' roster, and their ranking:
5. Pittsburgh Steelers
2014 ranking: 16
Not only is Le'Veon Bell the best U25 running back, but if he repeats his 2014 All-Pro performance, he'll vault to the top of the running back ranks. His two-game suspension to the start the season downgrades him ever so slightly this year, but it was incredible to see the improvement Bell made after a less-than-stellar rookie season.
Wide receiver Martavis Bryant was a stellar rookie for the Steelers, catching eight touchdowns in 10 games. He ranked as the NFL's best prospect in our story Wednesday. He's a perfect fit as Ben Roethlisberger's deep threat, and he could do a lot more damage in a full season this year. Markus Wheaton and rookie Sammie Coates provide the depth to give the Steelers arguably the best U25 receiving corps in the league -- and that's without Dri Archer and his game-breaking speed being fully implemented into the offense.
Pittsburgh's defense fell to 30th in DVOA last year, the worst rank for the Steelers since at least 1989. New defensive coordinator Keith Butler will have to replace a retired Troy Polamalu with safety Shamarko Thomas, who played three defensive snaps last year. Small rookie cornerback Senquez Golson figured to factor in heavily right away, but he could miss the season after shoulder surgery. Ryan Shazier, last year's first-round pick, expects to be healthier than last year (seven missed games). The Steelers went with another outside linebacker in the first round (Bud Dupree). They hope he'll provide the pass rush Jarvis Jones has failed to generate.
The Steelers do have some quality talent under the age of 25, but with youth comes inexperience. There was a reason Mike Tomlin and the Steelers' front office stuck with those trusted veterans for so many years, in some cases well after they were considered over the hill as football players.
Of the players listed in the ESPN Insiders article, the player who truly stands out as needing to be "implemented", as the article states, into the offense is Dri Archer. Archer is a unique talent and has a skill set many question whether he can transition from college speedster to NFL running back/wide receiver. Other young stars like Martavis Bryant. Le'Veon Bell and Markus Wheaton have already established themselves on the team's roster and have proven their worth on more than one occasion.
Defensively, the team has a lot of young talent from Ryan Shazier down to rookies Doran Grant, Senquez Golson and Bud Dupree. As the offense has some young playmakers sprinkled into their lineup, the defense is loaded with young players across the board at nearly every position. The Steelers defense has the "young and fast" look to them, but their lack of experience has been on display throughout the 2015 preseason.
The question now remains if the Steelers will be able to utilize their young talent to propel them past the Wild Card round of the AFC Playoffs and make a run at a seventh Lombardi trophy.
The Top 10 teams in terms of talent under 25: