The journey toward Super Bowl LII ended far too prematurely for the Pittsburgh Steelers, sending them into offseason mode before we were ready for it. But we are in it now, and are ready to move on, through the Combine, through free agency, through the draft, into OTAs, and beyond.
We have asked and answered a lot of questions over the years and will continue to do so, and at the moment, there seem to be a ton of questions that need answering. A surprise early exit in the postseason will do that to you though, especially when it happens in the way it did.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring developments all throughout the offseason process, all the way down to Latrobe. Pending free agents, possible veteran roster cuts, contract extensions, pre-draft visits, pro days, all of it will have its place when the time arises.
Question: Following a haunting early playoff exit, where do the Steelers go from here?
How do you recover from a loss like yesterday’s? The answer is, of course, time. The sting of the defeat will fade, but the problems that arose in that game—and throughout the season, in some cases—will remain, and will need to be addressed.
The biggest problem throughout the entire game was defensive communication issues, which contributed to their struggles both against the pass and the run. Players talked about not trusting one another to carry out their assignment and filling to fill gaps.
How do you fix communication issues? This ultimately falls back to the defensive coordinator. In his third season, Keith Butler’s unit did a lot of good things, but not when it mattered most. And communication issues have been a recurring theme for the last three years.
But communication issues are inevitable when you lose your communicator in Ryan Shazier. A lot of things trended downward following his injury, and right now we have to assume that Shazier is not going to play football again and fix those problems.
Other than signing players to futures contract, the first priority is going to be to figure out which pending free agent players they want to keep, and which they have to keep, and what they will need to do with respect to managing the salary cap to make it all work.
The exit meeting process begins almost immediately—we will be doing our own exit meetings, as we do every year—and that process will include everybody, even head coach Mike Tomlin. The only one who is safe is the owner, since…well, he owns everything.
But at least we don’t have to worry about Ben Roethlisberger retiring for another year, right? That’s got to count for something. This team has a tremendous amount of talent at its disposal. While flawed, this remains a good team with legitimate Super Bowl aspirations. But right now, it’s time to begin retooling.