What do Ben Roethlisberger, Heath Miller and Ramon Foster have in common?
They all started in the Steelers' last playoff game, a 29-23 overtime loss at Denver. They are the only three offensive starters still in place from that game.
Same goes for Lawrence Timmons, William Gay, Ike Taylor and Troy Polamalu on the defensive side of the ball (and possibly Brett Keisel, who was lost to injury early in that contest).
Post Gazette reporter Ed Bouchette pointed out the significant amount of turnover the Steelers' starting units have undergone, but considering the team's general lack of production over the last two seasons since that fateful January evening, it won't surprise anyone.
The question here is more based on whether those who replaced the departed 15 starters can contribute to a stronger team than that 12-4 group was in 2011. That team got four of its 12 wins against teams over .500 at the end of the year (9-7 Cincinnati twice, 13-3 New England and 9-7 Tennessee).
Part of the reason for that turnover was the lack of turnovers.
After thoroughly dominating the NFL throughout 2010, the Steelers' defense fell off in a significant way in terms of takeaways. They went from 21 interceptions to 11, and forced 12 fumbles, half of the 24 they managed in their AFC Championship year. Oddly, though, the Steelers will retain three of the defensive backs from that non-larcenous group, really only replacing Ryan Clark (who went to the Pro Bowl that season but did not play at Denver) with Mike Mitchell and Bryant McFadden with Cortez Allen.Gay started at cornerback against the Broncos but likely will start the season as the team's slot cornerback.
Offensively, the team has seen leaps and bounds improvements, but it took another season and a half after that playoff loss to see a team that averaged 25 points a game (28 factoring in defensive and special teams scores) over the final eight games of the year. Foster moved from right guard to left, but Roethlisberger and Miller are cornerstones of a unit that's expected to finish in the top 10 of the NFL in scoring and yards gained.
The new faces the team has brought in have been quietly added over the years, but looking back on it, they've been significant, and in-line with general manager Kevin Colbert's thoughts over the last two seasons - those who have left were members of an 8-8 team.
New faces are expected to move that first number higher.