LATROBE _ What have the Steelers become and what might they yet become as a result?
General Manager Kevin Colbert and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger have a similar vision of the franchise’s transition, of where it has been and, perhaps, where it may be headed.
Colbert: “We’re a younger team. I keep saying right now we only have four starters over the age of 30, Ben, Heath (Miller), Troy (Polamalu) and Ike (Taylor). We’re a much younger team and I think the success of this team will be determined by the pace at which the young group develops.
“Not just this year’s draft class, but last year’s. We expect more from Jarvis Jones. We expect more from Le’Veon Bell. We expect more out of Markus Wheaton. And if they progress like we expect, in addition to this year’s class, then we might have something.”
Roethlisberger: “We have a good group of young guys. We have a really good second-year class that needs to step up, Jarvis Jones, Markus Wheaton, Le’Veon, those guys. And I’m excited about where they’re going because they’ve put the work in. They know they need to step up and help this team.
“Troy and I spent some time talking the other day. We just kind of reminisced about when we came in the league how the team was older than us. We had the older guys and we were just good enough as a young group to help the older group have a real good run there of AFC Championship Game, then Super Bowls and kind of do some good stuff.
“We kind of looked at each other and were kind of laughing and talking, it’s kind of what it feels like now. We have those older guys and as older guys we feel we have a good younger group, whether it’s rookies, second-year guys, third-year guys, even some guys, Maurkice Pouncey has been here for a little bit but still a younger guy, that really can hopefully get us back over that hump of becoming a championship team again.”
There’s enough confidence in this next wave that neither Colbert nor Roethlisberger were shy about calling them out by name.
The Steelers know what they’ll need this season and who they’ll need it from.
And, like every NFL team, they’ll have to stay relatively healthy.
If all that comes to pass _ a gargantuan “if” but at the same time not inconceivable _ the Steelers will have bottomed out with consecutive 8-8 campaigns on their way to retooling and once again becoming a championship contender.
That would make 2012 and 2013 a lot more palatable, in retrospect.
Or would it?
“The problem with that is around here 8-8 sucks,” one member of the personnel department told me the other day.
So there’s an unmistakable sense of urgency detectable this summer at St. Vincent College, as well, along with an anticipation of and expectation for 2014 that are every bit as obvious.