The Pittsburgh Steelers have, by and large, been on an upward swing over the course of the past two and a half seasons after they missed the playoffs for two straight seasons, and failed to win a postseason game in four straight years.
Last season saw them gain that elusive playoff victory, though they came up short with about three minutes left in the Divisional round a week later. Their offense took off, and their defense improved, showing playmaking ability and opportunism.
But there are still a lot of unanswered questions facing the team as we crack into free agency territory. As an exercise, we like to take a stab at some of those questions, presenting arguments for the pros and cons of each side of the coin. This is the optimist’s take on the following question.
Question: Have the Steelers done enough to weather the loss of Martavis Bryant for the season?
The question is asked knowing full well that the regular season does not start for about half a year still, which means that the Steelers still have plenty of time to continue to address their roster if they feel that they are not yet sufficiently insulated from the loss of Martavis Bryant, who it was recently announced will be suspended for the 2016 season.
But they may not really have to do much at all on the offensive side of the ball, even with Bryant not in the mix. With names such as Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell, Ladarius Green, Markus Wheaton, and Sammie Coates—this list of names may well wind up being their base set—the Steelers are still plenty loaded on the offensive side of the ball.
Oh, and they also have a Ben Roethlisberger who will be coming in healthier than he was for all but about two and a half games during the 2015 season. the veteran quarterback suffered an MCL injury, a bone bruise, a concussion, multiple foot injuries, and probably another injury or two that I’m not even remembering, and they all affected his play.
I don’t believe that any single factor will be as important as getting Roethlisberger back as healthy as possible, because when he has been healthy over the course of the past three seasons, he has been looking awfully elite. When less than 100 percent, he has shown himself to be prone to opening himself up to some sloppy decision-making, leading to turnovers.
But getting Bell back is also a huge ingredient, and unless we have forgotten, he caught more passes for more yards in 2014 than in either of Bryant’s seasons. On a play-to-play basis, Bell is actually a more important piece of the passing tapestry, even if the tall, speedy wide receiver is the home run hitter.
Coates enters the picture as the wildcard. He’s not quite as tall nor as fast, and perhaps not as elusive as Bryant, but he is probably a bit stronger, and when he got an opportunity to appear in the postseason, he did show the ability to gain yards after the catch, which would be something lacking without Bryant.
Oh, and they still have Brown, who put up absolutely eye-popping numbers when Roethlisberger was on the field with him. Roethlisberger may be the drink, but Brown is the straw that stirs it. With the addition of Green, they also add a red zone threat to cut the deficit left with the loss of Bryant, with the tight end being every bit the mismatch.