ShareThis Page

Steelers might be looking at a youth movement in 2013

| Saturday, May 18, 2013, 11:06 p.m.
The Steelers Art Ronney II looks on a first round pick David DeCastro speaks to the media at St. Vincent College July 25, 2012. Chaz Palla | Tribune Review
Steelers receiver Emmanuel Sanders makes the Redskins' DeAngelo Hall miss in the first quarter on Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012, at Heinz Field. Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Heath Miller (83) is tackled by Cincinnati Bengals free safety Reggie Nelson (20) during the first quarter of an NFL football game on Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012, in Pittsburgh. Cincinnati won 13-10.(AP Photo/Don Wright)
Steelers running back Jonathan Dwyer outmaneuvers the Ravens' Courtney Upshaw en route to a third-quarter touchdown at M&T Bank Stadium during a Dec. 2, 2012, game. The Steelers split two games with the Super Bowl-bound Ravens this season, with each team winning by three points. Chaz Palla | Tribune Review
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger throws under pressure from the Chargers in the fourth quarter on Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012, at Heinz Field. Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Chaz Palla
Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham connects on the winning field goal to beat the Ravens on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012, at M&T Bank Stadium.
NFL via Getty Images
In this handout image provided by the NFL, David Johnson of the Pittsburgh Steelers poses for his NFL headshot circa 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Getty Images
PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 18 : LaMarr Woodley #56 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks downfield against the Baltimore Ravens on November 18, 2012 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Christopher Horner
Tennessee's Tim Shaw blocks a punt by the Steelers' Drew Butler during the first quarter Thursday October 11, 2012 at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Chaz Palla | Tribune Review
The Steelers' Troy Polamalu plays against the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium Dec. 2, 2012.

In late December, the Steelers infrequently find themselves out of the playoffs — as they did last season. In mid-May, however, they're almost always considered to be one of the teams to beat.

Not this May.

As the Steelers resume practicing this week for the first time since they ended a disappointing 2012 season by losing five of their final seven games, they're regarded as one of those question mark teams that could be good again but also might be starting an uncharacteristic downslide.

“One of the favorite sayings in the NFL is, ‘We know Pittsburgh is going to be good,' ” NFL Network analyst Charles Davis said. “But as sit here right now, Pittsburgh might be behind Baltimore and Cincinnati, and that's not normal. This is different.”

So is the Steelers' depth chart as they begin organized team activities Tuesday. And it's not just because the team is missing familiar names such as James Harrison, Casey Hampton, Mike Wallace, Keenan Lewis, Rashard Mendenhall, Max Starks, Charlie Batch and Byron Leftwich.

While names on paper mean nothing with the season four months away, the depth chart might include more rookies in more prominent roles than perhaps on any of their teams since the super drafts of the 1970s.

Davis said the Steelers might eventually rely more on rookies than any other team, an abrupt change of pace from the Steelers Way.

“For the most part, the Steelers always put us in a deep sleep,” Davis said. “But they've pulled an Ichabod Crane. You wake up and it's, ‘Whoa, what's going on around here?' ”

That would be the biggest one-season roster makeover of the seven-season Kevin Colbert-Mike Tomlin collaboration. Here's how the unofficial depth chart looks at the start of OTAs. It almost certainly will change before training camp starts in late July.


Wide receiver

Emmanuel Sanders Team employees insist he's training diligently and enthusiastically after Steelers matched Patriots' RFA offer.

Markus Wheaton* NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah says he might fit the Steelers better than any receiver in the draft. “He's got that feistiness and competitiveness like Hines Ward in his heyday,” Jeremiah said.

Plaxico Burress His heyday is long past, but he still hopes to be a valuable red-zone receiver.

Antonio Brown Needs to show even before camp starts that he's the guy. Period.

Jerricho Cotchery Possession receiver might play bigger role early in season if Heath Miller is out.


David Gilreath, JD Woods*, Reggie Dunn*, Kashif Moore*, Justin Brown* and Derek Moye (two ex-Penn Staters at same position)

Left tackle

Mike Adams He and Marcus Gilbert will compete from the get-go to be Ben Roethlisberger's blind-side protector.

Kelvin Beachum His versatility means he might show up anywhere on the line.


Mike Farrell*

Left guard

Ramon Foster One of those guys you don't appreciate until he's gone. And he stayed.

John Malecki Needs to hold off undrafted rookies Chris Hubbard* and Mike Golic*.


Maurkice Pouncey For Roethlisberger to stay healthy, Pouncey must, too.


Joe Madsen

Right guard

David DeCastro Davis said the Steelers essentially have two first-rounders this season because DeCastro missed so much of last season.


Justin Cheadle and Nik Embernate*

Right tackle

Marcus Gilbert Will get a chance to supplant Max Starks at left tackle but likely will wind up here.

Guy Whimper The lone offensive line backup with considerable NFL experience.


Joe Long

Tight end

Heath Miller Nobody knows when he'll be ready. Steelers need it to be sooner than later.

Matt Spaeth Mike Tomlin loves the guy, and that's why he's back.


David Paulson, Jamie McCoy and Zack Pianalto


Ben Roethlisberger This season might reveal whether he's reaching the prime of his career.

Bruce Gradkowski Davis said having him around allows the Steelers to bring Landry Jones along slowly.

Landry Jones* An intriguing draft pick. Is he Big Ben's eventual replacement or the next Dennis Dixon?


John Parker Wilson

Running back

Le'Veon Bell* Maybe it's not fair to label him as a starter from the start. But it's his job to lose.

Jonathan Dwyer Needs to show more consistency to hold off Bell.

Isaac Redman A team can carry only so many running backs. He must prove again that he belongs.

LaRod Stephens-Howling Biggest contribution might come as a kick returner.


Baron Batch and Curtis McNeal*


Will Johnson Came from nowhere to be the starter last season. Now must hold off David Johnson, who was hurt in first preseason game.


Shaun Suisham Wants to follow up best season of his career with a better one. Danny Hrapmann is back to push him in camp.

Long snapper

Greg Warren In his ninth season, few in the league are more consistent.


Luke Ingram*


Defensive end

Ziggy Hood Fifth and final chance to prove he deserved to be a first-rounder.

Al Woods Lack of depth means he might make 53-man roster again.


Cordian Hagans* and Brian Arnfelt*

Nose tackle

Steve McLendon Played in the shadow of Casey Hampton, and what a shadow that was. Now it's his turn.

Alameda Ta'amu Almost no way 2013 could be worse than 2012.


Loni Fangupo

Defensive end

Brett Keisel Old reliable is still there, but for how much longer?

Cam Heyward Third chance for him to prove he deserved to be a first-rounder.


Nick Williams* and Omar Hunter*

Outside linebacker

LaMarr Woodley The key to the Steelers' defense? Woodley's conditioning might be the key to the whole season.

Chris Carter Didn't do much as a fill-in starter for James Harrison. Must do a whole lot more.

Jarvis Jones* What's this, two rookies listed as starters on the depth chart before they've gone through a fully organized practice? The Steelers didn't draft him to sit him.

Jason Worilds Couldn't beat out James Harrison, but who could? Now Jones is the challenge.


Adrian Robinson and Terence Garvin*

Inside linebacker

Larry Foote Knows the defense as well as anybody, and that's why the Steelers brought him back.

Vince Williams* Davis said of the sixth-round draft pick: “He hits anything that moves. He fits the style of play Pittsburgh likes.”

Sean Spence No evidence yet he will be ready to play in '13 following catastrophic knee injury.

Lawrence Timmons Can he play at a Pro Bowl level for a second consecutive season?

Stevenson Sylvester Special teams help keep him around.


Kion Wilson, Alan Baxter*, Marshall McFadden and Brian Rolle


Cortez Allen Steelers didn't look elsewhere after Lewis left. Now he must validate the confidence they have in him.

William Gay Returns to Steelers as the nickel back, is likely to play a bigger role.

Ike Taylor Hopes to show from start he's fully recovered from broken ankle that ended his ‘12 season.

Curtis Brown Everybody with the Steelers agrees this might be a make-or-break season.

Terry Hawthorne* Most rookie draft picks aren't coming off a disappointing final college season.


DeMarcus Van Dyke, Ross Ventrone, Josh Victorian and Justin King

Strong safety

Troy Polamalu Steelers wish they didn't have to cross their fingers every time he steps onto a field.

Shamarko Thomas* Rookie who hopes to show his big hits make up for his small size.


DaMon Cromartie-Smith

Free safety

Ryan Clark Following Clark's twin-concussion season, Polamalu isn't the only safety whose health has become a worry.


Robert Golden and Isaiah Green


Drew Butler Average rookie season, must beat out Brian Moorman, who was Bills' punter for 11-plus seasons.

* Denotes rookie Sources:; Steelers

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib Reach him at or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using 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.