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Pittsburgh Steelers Face Many Questions on Defense Heading into 2014

February 3rd, 2014 at 10:24 PM
By Mark Mihalko
 Pittsburgh Steelers got to see what an attacking and dominate defense can do, as the Seattle Seahawks destroyed the Denver Broncos on Sunday in the Super Bowl. Their intimidating and physical brand of defense embarrassed the Broncos number one offense, something that used to be synonymous with the Steelers.
'Cleveland Browns vs. Pittsburgh Steelers' photo (c) 2013, Erik Drost - license:
For Steelers fans, it may be hard to imagine that unit playing at that level any time soon, but it is possible. There is no question, the Steelers defense will be going through major changes in 2014. Actually, the team has no other option with their lack of salary cap space and their list of unrestricted free agents on that side of the ball.
As of right now, four opening day starters from their defense will be unrestricted free agents in Jason Worilds, Brett Keisel, Ziggy Hood, and Ryan Clark, and one is a likely salary cap casualty in LaMarr Woodley. Two more veterans, Ike Taylor and Troy Polamalu may have to take pay cuts to secure their position on the roster. While the team will likely reach agreements with Taylor and Polamalu, the same cannot be said for the others.
Of those unrestricted free agents, only Worilds would appear to be in the future plans, and his future is tied directly to Woodley. If the team reaches an agreement with their 2013 sack leader,  Woodley will be a cap casualty, as the team has already spent too much on his injury-prone lower body. Even if they reach an agreement, there will still be many questions for the unit. 
It would be easy to pencil in Worilds and 2013 first round selection Jarvis Jones in at outside linebacker, but that'll still leaves a starting safety and one starting defensive end position up for grabs with no clear answer.
Rookie safety Shamarko Thomas would appear to be in line to replace Clark, yet his skill set math be best suited for strong safety. Whether he can transition remains to be seen. The defensive line has even more unknowns. While Cam Heyward and Steve McLendon should anchor two spots, the third starter may not be on the roster. At this point, Al Woods, who is also an unrestricted free agent would likely get the first shot.
With so many questions, it is easy to see why Steelers fans have an uneven feeling heading into 2014. With little money and limited draft choices, the front office has their work cut out for them.
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Tags: Al Woods, Brett Keisel, Cam Heyward, Football, Jarvis Jones, Jason Worilds, LaMarr Woodley, NFL, Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Steelers, Ryan Clark, Shamarko Thomas, Ziggy Hood

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