Pittsburgh Steelers' Defense Needs to Start Fresh in 2014

By Jeff Hartman
Pittsburgh Steelers
Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve all made mistakes. It is part of life and human nature to have the occasional “whoops,” but in the NFL those mistakes better be minimized or else someone is going to be out of a job. Whether it is a head coach, a general manager or even players, anyone could be unemployed if the right call isn’t made or a certain level of performance isn’t upheld through time.

Nonetheless, it is time for the Pittsburgh Steelers to start fresh on defense and cut ties with some players who have meant a lot to the franchise throughout the years and brought a lot of success to the Steel City. The Steelers need to wipe the slate clean, and in some cases admit their mistakes, and try to rectify the situation as soon as possible.

The most discussed and debated move that should be made is the release of outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley. Woodley was once part of the nastiest linebacker duos in the league alongside James Harrison, but those days seem like light years ago. Since signing his new hefty contract, Woodley’s play has gone downhill dramatically along with injury after injury. The Steelers should wait until after June 1 to lessen the salary cap hit and then let Woodley go find employment elsewhere.

On the back end of the defense is a player who seems more destined to be an ESPN anchor than a safety anymore, and that is Ryan Clark. Clark has had some great seasons with the Steelers, but 2013 was not his finest. Simply put, Clark is becoming a liability, and that is something the Steelers can ill afford with the free spirited Troy Polamalu depending on that safety valve always being in place. Clark’s time with the Steelers brought a lot of memories, but any more memories for Clark playing in the NFL should be in a different jersey.

At the end of the 2012 season the Steelers elected to retain cornerback Ike Taylor instead of cutting the veteran and giving the money to young defensive back Keenan Lewis. That was a mistake. Taylor didn’t have a horrible season, but he no longer is able to shadow the opponent’s No. 1 receiver, has always had horrible ball skills and his tackling has declined as he has gotten older. Taylor is due a large cap hit this season, and the Steelers should be wise enough to see the writing on the wall and release him. If they are able to re-sign him to a new, more friendly contract then they could use his services. However, if he refuses he should be sent packing.

Brett Keisel, also known as “da Beard,” is a fan favorite for a lot of reasons. He has a big beard, he drives tractors to training camp and he was one of the few surviving members of the 2005 Super Bowl 40 championship team. Keisel has had a good run with the Steelers, and that run has brought him more publicity than anyone saw when he came out of BYU to Pittsburgh. Keisel has started to show signs of decline as the injuries continue to rack up and the sacks begin to decrease. Keisel has said he still thinks he can play, but the truth should be that if he does it won’t be in Pittsburgh.

Steelers fans might be outraged at these words, but the truth of the matter is that all good things must come to an end. No one wanted to see Franco Harris end his career somewhere other than Pittsburgh, but he did. No one wanted to see Joey Porter playing for the Miami Dolphins or the Arizona Cardinals, but he did. Lastly, no one wanted to see Harrison with the Cincinnati Bengals last season, but that’s what happened. All of these decisions were difficult to make for the organization and even harder to swallow for the fanbase, but in the long run it was the right move to make.

These are just the latest moves that the team needs to make to stay relevant and competitive in the NFL whether the fanbase likes it or not.

Jeff Hartman covers the Pittsburgh Steelers for RantSports.com and   also contributes for the Penguins and Pirates. Follow him on   Twitter @BnGBlitz and add him on Google+

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