Ch-Ch-Changes: Turn And Face The Strange

Steelers GM Kevin Colbert promised changes, and he delivered. Mike Prisuta details just how thorough those changes have been.

Kevin Colbert maintained he wasn't interested in "coulda" or "shoulda" in the immediate aftermath of last season, and that the only things that truly mattered were the Steelers' 8-8 record and what the Steelers intended to do about it.

"We weren't good enough," Colbert declared as the Steelers entered the offseason at the precise time 12 of their NFL counterparts entered the postseason. "Quite honestly, the talent that we had assembled was an 8-8 team.

"Obviously, the plan is to be able to upgrade the team that we are going to put on the field in 2013."

That plan has been aggressively followed.

We're a couple of days away from finding out how well the Steelers went about the business of doing so.

Assuming there are no more changes this week, the 53-man roster for Sunday's regular-season opener against Tennessee will include 24 players that weren't on the 53-man roster for the regular-season finale last Dec. 30 against Cleveland.

That's a 45.3 percent turnover for a team that insists it isn't rebuilding.

Among the "new" faces are five familiar ones, Ike Taylor, Chris Carter, Marcus Gilbert, Heath Miller and David Johnson, all of whom had either been placed on IR or waived/injured by the time the dust settled last December against the Browns.

But even if those five aren't included among the newcomers the roster has still been turned over by more than a third (35.8 percent).

And that's not including a player such as Baron Batch, who wasn't here for the Cleveland game in December (IR) and isn't here now (released).

There will be at least five new starters on offense -– Emmanuel Sanders for Mike Wallace at wide receiver, Mike Adams for Max Starks at left tackle, Gilbert for Adams at right tackle, Isaac Redman for Jonathan Dwyer at running back and whoever starts at tight end for Edwin Pope. That number will swell to six if Will Johnson can't go and the Steelers open by deploying a fullback against the Titans.

There will be three new starters on defense – Steve McLendon for Casey Hampton at nose tackle, Jason Worilds for James Harrison at outside linebacker and Taylor for Keenan "Ivory" Lewis (more or less) at cornerback.

Last year's punter, Drew Butler, has also been punted in favor of Zoltan Mesko.

Major changes have also been made among the reserves, including:

* Two new backup quarterbacks (Bruce Gradkowski and Landry Jones for Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch).

* Three new backup running backs (Le'Veon Bell, who will become another new starter sooner rather than later, Felix Jones and LaRod Stephens-Howling; Dwyer, Rashard Mendenhall and Chris Rainey are no longer here).

* Three new backup defensive backs (William Gay, Shamarko Thomas and Antwon Blake; Will Allen, Ryan Mundy and Josh Victorian are gone but not forgotten).

* Five new backup linebackers (Carter, Vince Williams, Kion Wilson, Jarvis Jones and Terence Garvin; Marshall McFadden, Stevenson Sylvester, Adrian Robinson and Brandon Johnson have moved on).

It's as if a revolving door has been installed on the South Side, a place where Harrison's iconic No. 92 is now being worn by Loni Fangupo.

Even the arrival at a final 53 at the conclusion of the preseason proved merely temporary.

Soon after that was compiled cornerback Isaiah Green, offensive lineman John Malecki and Butler were expunged and offensive lineman Cody Wallace, Blake and Mesko were brought aboard.

Green was brought back to the practice squad this morning. I think.

"We will continue to compare the bottom side of our roster versus the field, like all teams do at this time of year," Mike Tomlin announced on Tuesday. "You would like to think that it would get off on a fluid manner in terms of the 53 (-man roster) but that's just not the reality of today's NFL.

"There are a lot of quality players out there. We are in the process of evaluating them."

And in that explanation we find the true meaning of 8-8.

The Steelers are suddenly doing things that every other team does.

How well they do them will go a long way toward determining when they can once again perceive themselves as a cut above.


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