Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

8-8 Rallying Point for Players

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

8-8 Rallying Point for Players

Article excerpt

With the Penguins knee-deep into the Stanley Cup playoffs and the Pirates holding one of the top three records in the National League, the Steelers will open their spring practices today trying to forget their worst record since Bill Cowher coached the team.

"We're [ticked] off we didn't make the playoffs," Michigan alum Larry Foote told over the weekend. "On top of that, our rival won the Super Bowl. I know guys are taking it personally. It's just a whole different mindset to the offseason. I know guys are ready to get back where we need to be."

The Steelers were in the thick of the playoff hunt last season until they lost at home to Cincinnati, 13-10, in the 15th game. They finished 8-8, tying their record in Cowher's last season (2006) and their worst since they went 6-10 in 2003. They also finished third in the AFC North behind Baltimore, which won the division and the Super Bowl, and Cincinnati, a wild-card playoff team.

Many players from the 2012 Steelers will not line up for practice today because they were released, signed elsewhere as free agents or not signed at all. They include James Harrison, Mike Wallace, Rashard Mendenhall, Casey Hampton, Max Starks, Keenan Lewis, Charlie Batch, Byron Leftwich, Will Allen, Ryan Mundy, Doug Legursky and Chris Rainey.

General manager Kevin Colbert pointed out many times the past several months that those player departures came from a team that went 8-8, as if that minimizes the talent loss. "I guess it's easier to make decisions to change when you're 8-8 than when you're 12-4," he said.

Despite that, Colbert insisted on many occasions that his team was not one in transition because that would imply they will not compete for a Super Bowl. Definitions aside, there will be more changes this season after the release of the Hines Ward, James Farrior and Aaron Smith before the 2012 season.

The Steelers also will be missing their most valuable player from last season, Heath Miller. He had surgery to repair two of the three ligaments that were torn in his right knee in the 15th game of the season. …

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