There’s been a startling amount of talk about the aging of the Pittsburgh Steelers defense, a unit that surrendered the fewest points last season and boasts the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in strong safety Troy Polamalu.
The media has often noted that the Steelers have eight defensive starters 30 years or older as the team heads into Sunday's season opener at Baltimore.
But Ravens inside linebacker Ray Lewis, who – at 36 – is the third oldest player between these teams behind Pittsburgh quarterback Charlie Batch and inside linebacker James Farrior, is ignoring the age issue.
“I tell people all the time the only thing old is wine, and they say wine gets better with age,” Lewis said prior to Wednesday’s practice. “So, I tell you, if you can do it, do it. And that’s one defense that’s been doing it for a long time.”
Several Steelers players have been limited in the preseason due to injuries. Outside linebacker James Harrison took it easy while recovering from a pair of operations on his back. Polamalu is still being careful with a strained Achilles that bothered him last season.
Cornerback Ike Taylor hasn’t since breaking his left thumb in the preseason opener against the Washington Redskins. Fellow cornerback Bryant McFadden has been dealing with a hamstring injury. Defensive end Aaron Smith and nose tackle Casey Hampton were also slowed by injuries during camp.
Still, as Ravens coach John Harbaugh pointed out, Pittsburgh’s defense was at the top of the rankings for a reason.
“You watch them play,” he said. “They’re experienced, they play well. That’s the bottom line. At some point in time, on tape, if you ever see those guys start slowing down, I’ll be the first guy who will be happy to point it out and be happy about it. But we haven’t seen it yet.”