Of course the 3 R’s in question are not reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic but Retool, Recalibrate, and Refocus. While each of the Steelers "3 R's" represents an area of individual urgency, all of them are interrelated.
Steelers First "R" for 2013 Training Camp: Retool
The Steelers personnel philosophy since opening Heinz Field has been simple: Keep the core together.
departures of Willie Parker and Deshea Townshend) and has continued in fits and starts (see the return of Foote and Randle El in ’10) since then.
- Now the Steelers strategic personnel pivot has reached its end-game.
The question now is can players like Jason Worilds, David DeCastro, Cortez Allen, and Mike Adams produce at high enough level for the Steelers make a Lombardi run while Ben Roethlisberger retains some youth (and health).
- The Steelers have been here before.
We now know that there were too many Keith Gary’s, Walter Abercrombie’s and not enough Tunch Ilkin’s, Brian Hinkle’s and Louis Lipps for the Steelers to snatch the elusive “One For the Thumb.”
But in 2013 Mike Tomlin has two advantages that Chuck Noll lacked in 1983:
- Terry Bradshaw was 35 and Ben Roethlisberger is 31
- Free agency, yes, free agency
Historically Steelers Nation has had a hate-hate relationship with free agency, viewing it has a force that has robbed Pittsburgh of talented players as they reach their prime. And that of course has happened.
But free agency also gives the Steelers the ability to divest itself of players who are not up to par or might be good but don’t fit their system. In practical terms this means that Mike Tomlin can get rid of Ryan Mundy whereas Chuck Noll was stuck with Lupe Sanchez.
The story of the Steelers 2013 off season was Kevin Colbert’s attempt to get the most bang out of the Steelers salary cap buck.
They made hard choices, saying good bye to tenured veterans and promising youngsters alike. At St. Vincent’s this summer Mike Tomlin's challenge is to simultaneously develop and mold that talent into a winning roster.
Steelers Second "R" for 2013 Training Camp: Recalibrate
We all know the story of the Steelers 2012 season.
- When the offense was effective, the defense lacked
- When the defense began shutting down opponents, the offense imploded
On offense Ben Roethlisberger and Todd Haley kept denying friction existed between the two of them until the Steelers Digest itself outed them, labeling the improvement of the Roethlisberger-Haley relationship as the off season imperative.
- On defense the issues are both trickier and more challenging.
And this was also the case for the Steelers in 2009.
- There’s a pattern here, and one that reveals a deficiency that Dick LeBeau must rectify.
The Steelers defense has been predicated on stopping the run. Casey Hampton took away the middle of the field almost single handedly, and James Harrison, for all of his hell raising in the backfield, was phenomenal vs. the run.
Stopping the run has been cited as a weak point for both Jason Worilds and Cameron Heyward – two potential starters on the front seven.
Dick LeBeau has a delicate balance to strike.
Steelers Third "R" for 2013 Training Camp: Refocus
Friend and Behind the Steel Curtain scribe (full disclosure I also write for BTSC) Ivan Cole recently submitted were that were it not for a fumble in Oakland and one in Dallas that the Steelers would have finished in a three way tie for the AFC North crown.
- That’s a tantalizing hypothetical, as success or failure in an NFL season often does boil down to a handful of plays.
- And that’s true.
But Brown’s fumble wasn’t an isolated incident. There were myriad lapses vs. Oakland. The Cleveland road game was a comedy of errors, and vs. Chargers nearly everyone wearing black played just like they’d exited shock treatment. (Heck Mendenhall didn’t even grace the team with his presence that day.)
It is ironic, but not coincidental that the Steelers followed their best game of the season, the backup-powered road victory over Baltimore, with their worst, at home against San Diego where they did their best to make Norv Turner and Philip Rivers look like a modern day Air Croyle
- Such erratic performance generally boils down a lack of focus.
A generation later, Hines Ward and James Harrison followed their example.
- And so it must be with 90 men the Pittsburgh Steelers have brought with them to Latrobe.
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