For all the personnel changes that will take place on the Steelers, for all the talk about a team in transition, the defense that ranked No. 1 in the NFL in yards allowed should look . . . much the same.
Unless Keenan Lewis leaves as a free agent, there should be only one change in the regular starting defensive lineup for the Steelers next season, barring injury. That would come at nose tackle, where Steve McLendon is expected to take over for Casey Hampton.
The other change would occur if Lewis leaves, Cortez Allen would replace him at left cornerback.
Other than that, the two ends should remain in Brett Keisel and Ziggy Hood. The four linebackers likely will be the same unless for some reason they decide they cannot afford James Harrison; they want to re-sign Larry Foote, who will be joined by Lawrence Timmons inside, and LaMarr Woodley will be on the left outside.
In the secondary, we should again see Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark at safety and Ike Taylor at right cornerback.
Most of the changes that will occur will occur on offense.
Onto some stuff:
--- Did you know that George Washington was born on this day in 1731, that back then it was known as Feb. 11 and we celebrated his birthday this year on neither Feb. 22 nor Feb. 11 but on this past Monday, which happened to be Feb. 18? I won’t explain all that. Look it up and you should have no problem finding the answers.
--- If as expected Willie Colon is released, the Steelers will plan on their third different starter at left guard in three seasons, starting with Chris Kemoeatu in 2011. And that would mean their past two starting left guards were released.
--- Max Starks, who has not appeared in the past two Steelers media guides because he was not on the team when they were printed, has started the past 29 games at left tackle for them, including their lone playoff game in the 2011 season. As an unrestricted free agent on March 12, this will be the fifth time since 2008 that Starks’ contract has either expired or been terminated by the Steelers. Despite all that, Starks has never been with another NFL team.
--- The Steelers ranked No. 1 on defense overall, defense vs. the pass and No. 2 vs. the run, in fewest yards allowed in 2012. ProFootballFocus, taking into account all kinds of factors, had the Steelers defense rated14th in the NFL, or about the middle of the pack.
--- Here are a few national columns on the Steelers’ current state with differing views:
--- Onto your questions:
--- YOU: was Aaron Smith one of the best 'leaders' you've witnessed in your time covering the Steelers? I know you wrote you only get 2 1/2 hours in the locker room a week - but that guy just seemed to exude leadership in everything he did. The way he played the game. The way he handled his contracts over the years. The way he handled himself and his family during their trying times. He's one of my all time Steeler favorites and miss seeing him involved in the Black and Gold. Just looking for any insider observations.
ME: You picked an excellent role model, and I don’t often use those words to describe professional athletes. Aaron Smith carried himself in a way that exuded leadership without probably him even knowing it. He gave everything he had on the field, and treated everyone he met with the utmost respect and humility on and off the field. He ranks among my favorites of all time.
--- YOU: You are like a CEO; while the fans go from dizzying heights to bottomless depths depending on what is then transpiring with the Steelers, you maintain a remarkably even keel; taking a long term view of the inevitable ebbs and flows of Steeler fortunes.
At least I get paid to be ignored by my clients; you get to do the chats for free. Lucky you. Keep up the great work.
ME: That would be the first time anyone mentioned that I was lucky to be able to do chats for free (note to all, the Post-Gazette pays me a salary and part of that salary involves chatting, so I do not do those things for free). I can maintain an even keel because no matter what happens with the Steelers, the PG keeps me employed.
--- YOU: The dumbing-down of professional athletes is really annoying to me. They speak like street-hoods a lot of the time. I do not expect athletes to be orators or to have Cyril Wecht-like vocabularies, but geez, at least be able to complete a sentence. On a couple of occasions I have been near conversations with pro athletes, and I’m amazed how many times the f-bomb can be used in a single sentence. Save for Tiger Woods, you’ll never hear that in a pro-golf match.
ME: Nor in a chess match. Different levels of competition and passionate play. The English language ain’t what it used to be.
--- YOU: You’ve got to have the best job in Western Pa. Follow sports and get paid for it. What a country!
ME: Since I know of no Playboy photographers in Western Pa., you may be right.
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