Steelers' motivation: Win one for the old dudes

PITTSBURGH -- DeAngelo Williams, 32, didn't come to the Pittsburgh Steelers for more yards. He didn't come for a soft landing spot before retirement.

"I'm here to win a Super Bowl," Williams said.

Wiliams is one of a handful of key Steelers with at least 10 years in the league. The Steelers and Bengals each have 10 core roster players on offense or defense at age 30 or older, but the Steelers are older, averaging 32.7 years of age among those 10, compared to the Bengals' 31.5.

Both sides of the ball in Saturday's AFC wild-card game will be stocked with guys who have been getting it done on the field for at least eight years. It's the AFC North way. And it's the Steelers' way, which is why guard Ramon Foster wants to dedicate this run to his older teammates.

Especially Williams, whom Foster says has fit in seamlessly in his first season with the team. Williams is nursing a foot injury that could keep him out this week.

"I want to do it for guys like him, [Mike] Vick, Ben [Roethlisberger], older guys this week," Foster said. "That’s what we’re doing it for."

Several veterans hold sentimental value in the Steelers locker room. Roethlisberger (33) has quarterbacked Pittsburgh for 12 years. James Harrison (37) embodies the Steelers' age-old reputation for hard hitting. Heath Miller (33) is lauded by teammates as a consummate professional.

"To send them off the right way, it's a huge motivation in that sense," linebacker Arthur Moats said. "You know how hard these guys work to get to this point in their career. To actually do something about it to help them out is a great feeling."

As NFL teams frequently get younger, the Steelers sometimes take heat for clinging to key pieces too long. Troy Polamalu had lost a step at least a year before he retired. The Steelers relied on 33-year-old veteran Will Allen, a reserve for much of his career, at safety instead of upgrading the position alongside Mike Mitchell. No tight ends taken in the first four rounds of the 2015 draft despite Heath Miller approaching his mid-30s.

But Miller and Allen helped the Steelers win games this year. They are still key contributors. Harrison has had some bright moments, including a three-sack game against Indianapolis.

Holding onto veterans is an imperfect plan but it's worked for them this year. Players recognize that.