As much as it might not seem like it based on how some fans talk—and, admittedly, even sometimes how they look on the field—the Pittsburgh Steelers are actually a good football team, amazingly enough, and they have gone 24-8 over the course of the past two regular seasons, reaching at least the Divisional Round in each of the past three seasons, once advancing to the AFC Championship game.
That said, by no means is there any justification for the many issues that ail the team. Not even the New England Patriots are flawless, but some of the problems that the Steelers have are particularly concerning for a team with a championship window that may only last for as long as their quarterback feels like playing—or until his talent diminishes.
The team’s general manager, Kevin Colbert, talked about how they judge their team every year, and they are very much of the belief that you are what your record says you are. 13-3 in the regular season is very good, but losing your first playoff round is not.
“I do not think we were better in 2017 than we were in 2016 because we got eliminated a round earlier, and I think that’s a reflection of the job that all of us did or didn’t do”, he told reporters while speaking to the media last week, I believe for the first time this offseason.
I don’t think I need to provide any reminders about what happened in the Steelers’ most recent postseason game, but suffice it to say that defensive struggles were at the forefront of the problem, including the failure of their quick-change defense, which had previously been solid, allowing the Jacksonville Jaguars to make the most of an interception quickly.
Still, that doesn’t mean you just throw out the entire unit and system. But there will, of course, be changes. There are already two new coaches on the staff that will bring an outsider’s perspective on that side of the ball, but they will have some talent to work with, as Colbert recognized.
“I think that the group we have coming back, most of those players are either in their prime or they are on the rise. I do believe that group has a chance to get better”, he said. “Does that mean we won’t add to it? If we don’t change the roster we had in 2017, what reason would be think there would be any difference in the results?”.
The defensive starters who remain on their first contract are Artie Burns, Sean Davis, Bud Dupree, and T.J. Watt, though you can also throw Javon Hargrave and Mike Hilton in there. Stephon Tuitt is also among the youth, this having been his fourth season.
Changes are coming, as Colbert said, but they won’t be sweeping. The Steelers almost never operate that way, anyway, but in this case, it’s not necessary.