Sure, it was a different time back in the 1970s, for example, when the Pittsburgh Steelers were at their peak. You could say that it was much easier to get away with things at that time, and you could avoid the media attention. That is not even in the realm of possibility any longer.
Yet I can’t imagine that there was ever a season in team history that was more filled with drama than the 2017 season, which the players all seemed to agree. I certainly cannot remember a season ever quite like this, and there have definitely been incidents in the past. ‘Free Hernandez’ hats and telling fans to kill themselves on Twitter don’t hold a candle to the soap opera that pervaded a 13-3 season.
In spite of all of that, the Steelers are already able to avoid the biggest possible melodrama on the horizon this time, and I think we should all pause to appreciate just how significant that is.
We found ourselves in a much different place a year ago than we do now. With the Steelers having just lost the AFC Championship game to the New England Patriots—who went on to win the Super Bowl, and who are now returning once again for their record 10th appearance in the contest—Pittsburgh was facing a minor crisis.
Their quarterback was talking about retirement. Ben Roethlisberger, just a short time after the game, went on the radio essentially saying that he was taking some time during the offseason to decide whether or not he was going to continue his playing career, turning 35, with three years remaining on his current contract.
That is not the case this year, and we should not lose sight of how significant that is for the team heading into the offseason. That does not mean that they are not going to take a gander at the quarterbacks coming out of college, which they have admitted in the past they have mostly avoided over the past decade and a half. But there is no looming threat of immediate need.
Roethlisberger has already said that he is returning. He has even indicated privately that he is looking to play for at least a few more years. Frankly, it would not surprise me if he plays into his 40s, provided that the Steelers are able to keep a well-stocked offense around him, and having Antonio Brown for at least four more years, and JuJu Smith-Schuster for at least three, doesn’t hurt. Most of the offensive line is under contract for at least three more yards as well.
No doubt, there will be drama to come. Some of it will come from the team. Some of it will come from the media. Some of it will come from other outside sources. And some of it will be fabricated by a pathological fan base. But it’s just a really nice change of pace to not have to worry about the quarterback, hopefully for a few more years at least. Perhaps having Tom Brady to chase is a good thing.