The Pittsburgh Steelers are finally coming off a season in which they can feel like they’re headed in the right direction. In 2012 and 2013, they experienced a variety of derailments that saw them finish with an 8-8 record, missing the playoffs, and drafting in the middle of the first round.
The offense, in particular, took major strides in 2014, producing the second-most prolific performance in the team’s history.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger turned in arguably the best performance of his career, throwing for 32 touchdowns and nearly 5000 yards while keeping his turnover numbers low. Antonio Brown only ascended further from an exceptional 2013 season, catching the second-most passes in league history for nearly 1700 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Then there was Le’Veon Bell, the breakout star, who, on the ground and through the air, broke the franchise record for yards from scrimmage in a season. He totaled 11 touchdowns, including three receiving, and emerged as the team’s second option in the passing game.
The defense, on the other hand, remains very much a work in progress, which the Steelers are hoping to be able to fix on the fly without completely rebuilding. They have made the change at defensive coordinator from Dick LeBeau to Keith Butler, and while the system will largely remain the same, the small tweaks, one hopes, will make the personnel on hand more effective.
As long as the Steelers have a franchise quarterback on the roster—and they’re looking to extend him as we speak—the front office has to operate under the belief that they are in the middle of a championship window. Of course, they have some work to put in during the next few months to get the team to where it needs to be to compete for a championship in 2015.
And to do that, they must self-evaluate and determine their priorities this offseason to make a better team.
This is a primer to a series of articles looking at the areas of the team that the front office and the coaching staff will need to address over the course of the next few months as we approach free agency and the draft.
From coaching staff evaluations to signing players to futures contracts, watching college tape and holding end-of-season meetings with both players staff, the Steelers have plenty of things to keep themselves busy.
And they have plenty of questions that need answering. How can they reconcile the salary cap? Who do they restructure, if anybody? Do they extend anybody? Will they have to cut any players they really don’t want to part with? Which free agents do they want to sign? Who do they want to sign but will have difficulty retaining either financially or schematically?
There’s a lot to settle over the course of the next few months, and I’ll do my best trying to break down that process and how that might look when all is said and done.