Steeler Nation, after next week the Pittsburgh Steelers will be done with OTA’s and minicamp. The team will be heading into training camp in late July. This is a team that a lot of people are looking over in the 2013 season. So called “experts” and analysts are labeling the defense as old, however, the Steelers always have a plan. That plan will rely on three young players stepping into big roles on the defense.
Cortez Allen is embracing his new starting job as a cornerback on the defense while William Gay steps into his old role at Nickel. As for Allen, in his short career of only three starts with the team, he has two interceptions. Both coming in week 16 against the Cincinnati Bengals last year.
Allen is confident about the Steelers’ ability to compete in 2013. He said on 93.7 the Fan last week that the Steelers still have a lot of guys who helped the defense become the number one defense in the league in 2012.
Steve McLendon will be taking over a nose tackle spot held on by Casey Hampton for 12 years. Hampton was one of the best 3-4 nose tackles to play the position. His big build and toughness made it almost impossible for him to move, drawing double teams so the linebackers can make big plays. McLendon values what Hampton has done and looks to also be great at the same position.
McLendon told reporters last week: “I want to be powerful and strong like Casey Hampton, I want to be able to be smart like Chris Hoke. I want to be quick like (Dallas’) Jay Ratliff.”
Jason Worilds may have the most pressure on him between the three when he lines up in September taking over a spot where the previous man made 64 sacks at his position. James Harrison is a former defensive MVP and was the face of the defense. Worilds is a three year vet who has just 10 combined starts to his name.
Worilds understands that patience and execution is key to being a good player in the Steelers’ 3-4 system. Worilds made a career-high 5 sacks while backing up two All-Pro linebackers in 2012. He reminds everyone that he is not James Harrison, and he will not try to be either. Worilds told Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette last week that, “I come out here and put my best foot forward and let the decision-makers make the decisions,” Worilds said. ”I’m not James Harrison. When Jason Worilds steps on the field, anyone who expects James Harrison is fooling themselves.”
The veterans expect nothing but execution from the new men stepping into higher roles. Brett Keisel and Larry Foote have been two of the more outspoken individuals on the team that have said just that.
“We lost some guys this year and last year, so it’s unknown guys who need to step up if we’re going to go far,” said Foote to Alan Robinson of Trib Total media. “There are some unknown guys who have to step up and play big time for us.”
Foote went on to say that the entire organization is upset about how the season turned out last year. This being why the attendance to OTA’s has been very good and the intensity of the practices have been turned up a notch.
It is clear that the Steelers are hungry to get back where they need to be in 2013. These three players that are stepping into starting roles will need to chomp at the bit to become great. As Dick Lebeau would say, they need to trust their abilities and become valuable starters for years to come.