Tomlin: Losses of key players won't derail Steelers' expectations
PHOENIX — Are the salary cap-restrained Steelers beginning a steep and inevitable decline? Coach Mike Tomlin's response is an emphatic no.
Mike Wallace, James Harrison, Keenan Lewis and Rashard Mendenhall are gone from a disappointing team that went 8-8 and, according to some players' postseason comments, was beset by leadership and locker room issues. Already a national perception is building that the Steelers' inability to replace key starters because of their cap issues means the worst is yet to come for a team accustomed to yearly success.
Tomlin, speaking to Pittsburgh media for the first time since the day after the season ended, expects the Steelers to be better — not much worse — in 2013.
What he isn't offering yet is any tangible, here-it-is-on-paper reasons why there is reason for optimism.
“I know what the prognostication is … the reality is we're an 8-8 team, and that's probably more acceptable in some places than it is in our place,” Tomlin said Sunday at the annual NFL meetings. “I hope we've got a scalded group. I believe that we do. I'm not looking to put anyone at ease in that regard. We've got to be better in '13, we've got to do better than in '12, and I think we'll have a group that can do that.”
General manager Kevin Colbert all but shrugged off the departures of Wallace, Lewis and Mendenhall to free agency, saying, “You could also argue that we lost pieces from an 8-8 team.”
“Can we get better? We hope,” Colbert said. “Had we re-signed folks, we were hoping to be better but now that we didn't, we have to find players via free agency and the draft, and we hope to be a better team.”
Tomlin, unaware of Colbert's comments, said losing key players can make a team better because on-the-roster players emerge and others who might not otherwise be drafted are selected.
“We may never replace James, but we'll have an opportunity to strengthen ourselves in other areas and I think that's what you look at when you look at things from a change standpoint,” Tomlin said. “No, we won't be able to replace James Harrison, no we won't be able to replace Mike Wallace; those guys are who they are. But those voids will allow us to strengthen ourselves in those areas and others. Collectively maybe even make us stronger.”
As for the players to come, Tomlin said emphatically the Steelers must add a running back. Ahmad Bradshaw, a former 1,000-yard rusher with the Giants, is reportedly interested in them.
“There might be some (free agents) we didn't think we had a chance at and, all of a sudden, the market changes and it becomes a discussion,” Colbert said.
Tomlin also said:
• The Steelers have plenty of leaders left despite shedding James Farrior, Hines Ward, Aaron Smith and Harrison in the last 13 months. He said, “I don't think we're devoid of leadership at all.”
• He expects Jason Worilds, a part-time player to date, to more than adequately replace Harrison. “We'll see what Jason Worilds is capable of doing,” Tomlin said.
Then, he added, laughing, “No pressure.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- LeBeau won’t join Cardinals coaching staff
- Increasing pressure on QBs will be offseason focus for Steelers
- Steelers mum on national report involving head of security
- Seven questions facing Steelers in quest for seventh Super Bowl title
- Steelers’ Rooney ‘not expecting a problem’ with new Big Ben deal
- NFL names sportsmanship award after Steelers founder
- Steelers sign punter Wing to 1-year extension
- Steelers’ Polamalu ponders murky future after team’s playoff loss
- Steelers cope with season’s sudden, unsatisfying finish
- Steelers notebook: Ike Taylor says he has ‘years left’ but is ‘very cool’ with ’14 being last season
- Steelers sign CFL defensive end Lemon