On the Steelers: Number for the day is 41.5

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Forget turnovers. The issue for the Steelers is turnover, player turnover. They've never seen anything like this. They might have to go back to the original formation of the franchise in 1933 to find such major change in personnel.

The Steelers' 53-man roster today represents a 41.5 percent turnover from their roster that opened the 2012 season. That's a switch of 22 players.

The late British philosopher Alan Watts said, "The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance" and the Steelers are doing just that.

"Over last couple of years, there's been lot of new guys," said Larry Foote, entering his 12th NFL season, 11 with the Steelers. "There's a changing of the guard. You can see it. I think it's time."

General manager Kevin Colbert refuses to use the other t-word -- transition -- but even he cannot deny the major turnover in players this team has had. Among those gone from last year's team are James Harrison, Casey Hampton, Mike Wallace, Keenan Lewis, Rashard Mendenhall, Max Starks and Willie Colon. And that's just for starters. Both veteran backup quarterbacks and both veteran backup safeties joined them.

Yet there remain plenty of the old core such as Foote, Ryan Clark, Troy Polamalu, Brett Keisel, Ben Roethlisberger, LaMarr Woodley, Heath Miller and Lawrence Timmons. They call themselves the '08ers, those with Super Bowl rings.

"The older guys, we always want another crack at it," Foote said. "I try to pay attention to the longevity of the dynasty of that core guys we had here so long. We were fortunate to be together that long. A lot of guys sacrificed, a lot of guys took less money. That's what made my career special."

With such an infusion of new faces, might that old chemistry change and possibly for the worse? There seemed to be some of that last season, and several players took note of it afterward, Clark calling it a "fractured" locker room.

"It remains to be seen," Keisel said. "We're used to, in the past, having guys who have been around, kind of been-there, done-that guys.

"I think a lot of people when they come into an organization like this know what type of team the Pittsburgh Steelers are. You expect a great team. You walk by the Lombardis every day. It's not anything new that we're historically a good team. So when you come in here, I think you get that feeling right away, at least I hope you do."

Foote said the infusion of so many new players also can be rejuvenating.

"The young guys, they have to make their mark in this league, make their name, build something," Foote said. "It's a good mix, a good combination. We're leading them. We have the right guys back to lead the young guys and show them how it's done.

"We had that reputation, you have to carry that on. You might not be that bad but when you put these colors on, you are that bad."

Curtain closes on 'Let's make a deal'

What appeared likely in training camp becomes certain today -- there will be no contract extensions for any Steelers players until at least the end of the season.

The Steelers self-imposed deadline to extend contracts ends with the start of the regular season. It's been awhile since they did not sign at least one contract extension in the summer, but they were shut out this year mainly because they did not even try.

They have the salary cap room at an estimated $3.5 million if they wanted to extend someone.

Among those who enter the final year of their contracts who would become unrestricted free agents in March if they do not sign a new deal before then are Ziggy Hood, Isaac Redman, Emmanuel Sanders, Ryan Clark, Brett Keisel, Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Worilds.

There's always a chance one or a few will re-sign after the season. Starting left guard Ramon Foster did so this year. In 2010, Clark seemed ready to sign as a free agent with Miami in 2010 but returned to the Steelers on a four-year deal.

There's a bull with horns to be grabbed

Isaac Redman gets the call as the Steelers starting halfback today, and while Mike Tomlin has indicated he also wants to "get to know" Felix Jones, it's Redman's job to lose. If he has success, there will be no need to use Jones. Redman has the size and stamina to carry 20 or 25 times a game.

"We've got extenuating circumstances again," coordinator Todd Haley said, "but we are still looking for somebody to take the bull by the horns and not let us take him out. The guys are going to have an opportunity in this game to showcase how much they want the job."

LaRod Stephens-Howling likely will play on third downs, but if Redman plays the way he did against the New York Giants last year, it will be hard to take him out.

And the Steelers will finish ...

Not many are picking the Steelers to make the playoffs, much less win the AFC North Division or the Super Bowl. That's what happens when you collapse in the second half of last season, finish 8-8 and then lose a bunch of talent afterward.

Yet, they should still have one of the best defenses in the NFL, they have one of the best quarterbacks and their receivers are overall a decent group.

What is unknown is how the offensive line plays. And hasn't that been a question surrounding this team going back to before their most recent Super Bowl win in the 2008 season? Nothing's changed there, then. Their running game also has to come into question because none of their runners have shown an ability to be consistent over the course of a season, unless rookie Le'Veon Bell's days at Michigan State count.

Nevertheless, the Steelers would seem to be no weaker than last season, when they started 6-3 before the injuries to Roethlisberger's rib and right shoulder sent things downhill. They also have a somewhat favorable schedule.

Taking it game-by-game, here's how it could play out:

Tennessee (W), at Cincinnati (L), Chicago (W), Minnesota at London (L), at New York Jets (W), Baltimore (W), at Oakland (W), at New England (L), Buffalo (W), Detroit (W), at Cleveland (W), at Baltimore (L), Miami (W), Cincinnati (L), at Green Bay (L), Cleveland (W).

That's 10-6. Book it, along with a playoff appearance as a wild-card team behind AFC North champion Cincinnati.


First Published September 8, 2013 4:00 AM

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