The cuts just keep happening and the Steelers are getting ready to resign some of their own and we are starting to see what is shaping up to be the 2012 Pittsburgh Steelers. Yesterday we were informed that Hines Ward was going to be cut (that everyone knew was going to happen) and today we found out that the Steelers also cut long time defensive end Aaron Smith and troubled guard Chris Kemoeatu.
I touched on the Hines Ward stuff in early February when it was learned he was probably going to get cut. If you want to read what I had to say then you can click here for that link.
The cut of Smith was a lot like the cut of Ward. Smith and Ward were the only two players left that played both in Three Rivers Stadium and Heniz Field and it seems like he played forever. By all accounts Smith was a great locker room guy and might be one of the most underrated defensive players of his era. I say it a million times but if your defense is a 3-4 and you are successful as the Steelers are then you probably can put much of the success on that front three.
Smith's numbers aren't going blow your mind but he was uber productive in his time. Here is his stats since he came into the league in 1999:
The cut of Kemoeatu wasn't really all that big of a surprise. He was never really ever able to stay healthy and he was nowhere near a consistent football player and if you bring his name up the first things you will hear out of Steelers fans mouth's are probably false start and personal foul. Kemoeatu knew that he was doing this and it was pretty telling at the end of this season he knew why he wasn't a starter anymore. He linked it to being hurt and then trying to overcompensate but it was just frustrating to watch him at points.
This was a cut that I won't say I 100% agree with but I more than understand why he was let go. Talent wise Kemoeatu was one of the best lineman on the Steelers roster but as I said before he just couldn't put it together. I would really have liked to see him stay on the team as a back up and see what he could do if healthy. He was a very good run blocker but lacked in the pass blocking. Obviously we won't know if he could have improved that much as he is cut but I would have like to see him back.
Overall I have seen a lot of people really bashing the Steelers for how they are handing these cuts. I have seen people say the Steelers are cleaning house and that the Steelers are classless with how they are letting players go. I personally have no idea where people are saying this kind of stuff. If you were going just by reaction you would have thought that when the Steelers cut a player they throw them in a 50 foot hole to die. This is a business and while players like Ward and Smith have meant so much to the Steelers for such a long time there comes a point where you have to cut your ties when the players can't stay on the field and can't produce.
What is great about the Steelers organization is that they make moves based on winning. They don't make moves on emotion, which is why they have been so good for so long. The Steelers are one of the best in the league of knowing when to let players go and when to bring them back and to say that they should do otherwise really wouldn't go with how they have run the organization for so long. If you keep guys like Smith and Ward and they don't produce are you going to complain when they can't get the job done next year or prevent them from improving the team? Probably. While it really sucks to lose guys like this you have to keep it in perspective and realize that the Steelers organization is making decisions to win football games, not make people feel good.
There is no easy way to tell a player that you are not going to welcome him back next year but what the Steelers are doing is far from classless. The Steelers don't owe any of these players anything. What they do owe is to the players playing on the team that they will have the best possible chance of winning in 2012 and if that doesn't include guys like Ward, Smith and Kemoeatu then so be it.
Don't take this as I don't care about the guys that were cut. I said it before and I will continue to say that this is a tough thing to go through. Hines Ward and Aaron Smith bleed Black and Gold and they are Steelers icons. It is going to be really hard to watch them not be on the field and it's going to be hard to watch Ward play for another team if he decides to do so. But players age and lose skill. Ward played OK in some games this year but for a vast majority of the year he was on the bench and not producing. It happens. Aaron Smith was hurt for much of the last three years and Kemo just couldn't get his head straight. Tough decisions had to be made and they were made. Deal with it.
The Steelers will continue to be a first class organization and Ward and Smith will always be remembered as Steelers. Don't forget that.