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Shhhh … but the Steelers’ defense is getting younger in a hurry

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Mark Kaboly  |  Tribune-Review

 

Everybody remembers what Warren Sapp said about the Steelers’ defense following the 2011 opening-season loss to Baltimore.

 

“The Pittsburgh Steelers. I have three things: old, slow and it’s over. It’s just that simple,” Sapp said.

 

Well, the “slow” and “over” were proven wrong almost immediately as that Steelers unit finished the season first in total defense. Even though the Steelers may never admit it, the “old” part of Sapp’s statement rang very true, and they done something about it.

 

That 2011 opening 35-7 loss to Baltimore featured a defense that had seven players 30 or older and the average age of 31.1 years. The 2011 season was the pinnacle of the Steelers age on defense. No other time during had the defense been older.

 

Since then, the Steelers have progressively gotten younger while keeping the core of their No. 1-ranked defense intact, which isn’t very easy to do.

 

In fact, the “old” Steelers defense has been able to knock off a year every season and, if projections hold true for this year and into next, the Steelers will have gone from 31.1 years of age to 28.2 within a span of three offseasons without any glaring holes in the lineup and reduce their 30-year-olds on defense to as few as two in 2014 … or even less.

 

 

Below is a list of Week 1 starters on defense since 2011 with the 2013 and 2014 years being projected. With Brett Keisel and Ryan Clark in the final year of their deals in 2013 and with a backup seemingly in place to replace them, the 2014 projected defense leaves those two out. Now, the 2014 projection could get very young if the Steelers decide to move on without Ike Taylor, Troy Polamalu and Larry Foote. Foote would likely be the best chance of the Steelers getting younger in 2014. I do have first-round pick Jarvis Jones starting in 2014 but not 2013, but the difference between the ages of Jones and Jason Worilds  is minimal anyways.

 

For all the criticism the Steelers front office  received over some of their recent poor drafts, they’ve done a pretty good job of getting younger in a hurry.

 

2011 Week 1 starting defense

DE – Aaron Smith (35)

NT – Casey Hampton (34)

DE – Brett Keisel (32)

LB – LaMarr Woodley (26)

LB – James Harrison (33)

LB – James Farrior (36)

LB – Lawrence Timmons (25)

CB – Bryant McFadden (29)

CB – Ike Taylor (31)

FS – Ryan Clark (31)

SS – Troy Polamalu (30)

Average age: 31.1 years

 

2012 Week 1 starting defense

DE – Ziggy Hood (25)

NT – Casey Hampton (35)

DE – Brett Keisel (33)

LB – LaMarr Woodley (27)

LB – *James Harrison (34)

LB – Larry Foote (32)

LB – Lawrence Timmons (26)

CB – Keenan Lewis (26)

CB – Ike Taylor (32)

FS – Ryan Clark (32)

SS – Troy Polamalu (31)

Average age: 30.3 years

*Injured but returned Week 4

 

2013 Projected Week 1 starting defense

DE – Ziggy Hood (26)

NT – Steve McLendon (27)

DE – Brett Keisel (34)

LB – LaMarr Woodley (28)

LB – Jason Worilds (25)

LB – Larry Foote (33)

LB – Lawrence Timmons (27)

CB – Cortez Allen (24)

CB – Ike Taylor (33)

FS – Ryan Clark (33)

SS – Troy Polamalu (32)

Average age: 29.3 years

 

2014 Projected Week 1 starting defense

DE – Ziggy Hood (27)

NT – Steve McLendon (28)

DE – Cameron Heyward (25)

LB – LaMarr Woodley (29)

LB – Jarvis Jones (24)

LB – Larry Foote (34)

LB – Lawrence Timmons (28)

CB – Cortez Allen (25)

CB – Ike Taylor (34)

FS – Shamarko Thomas (23)

SS – Troy Polamalu (33)

Average age: 28.2 years

 

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Author: Mark Kaboly

Mark Kaboly is the Pittburgh Steelers beat writer for the Tribune-Review. Mark has covered more than 300 NFL football games in all 32 NFL cities as well as three Super Bowls -- XL in Detroit, XLIII in Tampa and XLV in Dallas. A Belle Vernon Area graduate, Mark earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English with a specialization in journalism from California University of Pennsylvania. Mark lives in Port Vue with his wife, Jennifer; daughter Briella; and boys Rocco and Bugsley Pug

 
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