Although it was stoutly denied by all parties who should know, in retrospect it seems pretty clear the Steelers went through a gradual rebuilding process that began around 2012 and may or may not be over, depending on how you look at it.
There are lots of different ways to do this, naturally. A lot of people thought the Steelers should just clean house. Clear out the older players (presumably except for Ben), take the pain in a couple of massive doses, and voila, you’re back to the Super Bowl!
The Steelers owners and coaching staff aren’t big fans of losing games, and also don’t appear to be fans of wholesale purging of players. Instead they chose the gradual road. They managed to get through the process (or most of it—I think there is a reasonable argument that the defensive backfield is the last stage in the rebuild) without ever having a losing season.
During this time we have seen several example of teams who did it differently. We will look at what they did and how successful it was, and eventually compare the various outcomes to how the Steelers went about their own process.
The first is the Carolina Panthers, who just went to the Super Bowl. In 2010 they were the worst team in the league.