Around the AFC North: Are the Pittsburgh Steelers on the Decline?

Cleveland Browns fans have been waiting for this moment for nearly ten years: the offseason when the Pittsburgh Steelers finally, officially, become a team on the decline.

Longtime stars James Farrior and Hines Ward have been told they will not be brought back, as have veterans Aaron Smith and Chris Kemoeatu.

We heard last year that their dynasty defense was getting older too.

By next season Troy Polamalu will have turned 31 years old, James Harrison will be 34, Larry Foote 31, Brett Kiesel 34, and Casey Hampton will be 35.

Beyond age, Ben Roethlisberger is upset he hasn’t been coddled enough by his new offensive coordinator Todd Haley. The team is in salary cap danger, and is rumored to be losing star receiver Mike Wallace as a restricted free agent. That and, golly, they didn’t even make the Super Bowl last year.

Sorry Browns fans, but the Steelers do this every year.

Last season they locked down two younger stars, LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons, to long-term contracts. They also worked to restructure contracts to get under the salary cap. They have not only drafted, but developed, behind their older stars, creating a wealth of young replacement defensive ends and wide receivers.

When the Browns overtake the Steelers in the AFC North, we’ll know it. It won’t be some March prayer that gets answered. We will see the Browns defeat the Steelers on the field, consistently, and that’s when the times will have changed – not before.

Hines Ward and Aaron Smith today are Antwaan Randle El and Joey Porter circa 2006.

Two tenants for Browns fans:

1) Never start celebrating a victory over your rival until the clock reads 0:00.

2) Never declare the Steelers’ decline before the season starts.

They were crushed by Baltimore 35-7 in last season’s opener, and in the end, what happened? What always happens?

Right now in Pittsburgh, cutting veterans, restructuring contacts to get under the cap, and reloading with young players is still the mark of a good team.

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Tags: AFC North Cleveland Browns Pittsburgh Steelers

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