I have over the course of the past several seasons turned to a series of articles around this time of year in which I looked to explore the issues and questions facing the Pittsburgh Steelers during the upcoming season and trying to identify the range of possibilities in which any given scenario can end.
I started out with a dual series called The Optimist’s/Pessimist’s Take and switched last season to the Devil’s Advocate series. In an attempt to find a more streamlined solution with a title more suited to the actual endeavor, we are introducing a simple Buy Or Sell segment exploring whether the position statement is likely to be worth investing in as an idea.
The range of topics will be wide, from the specific to the general, exploring broad long-term possibilities to the immediate future of particular players. I will make an argument for why a concept should be bought into as well as one that can be sold, and you can share your thoughts on which is the more compelling case while offering your own.
Statement Topic: Are the Steelers in a better position to win the Super Bowl in 2018 than they were in 2017?
The Steelers are in a better position to win the Super Bowl this season than they were during the postseason a year ago, provided that they are healthy. The loss of Ryan Shazier and the immediate impact that it had on the defense without a quality reserve to play behind him cannot be understated.
Pittsburgh has addressed this biggest weakness on the team with the addition of Jon Bostic, who is a capable player that I believe will do well in this system. He is also a key addition in improving the biggest issue from a year ago, which was communication lapses. Morgan Burnett also falls into that profile.
The offense should be even better than last season with JuJu Smith-Schuster heading into his second year, Martavis Bryant better prepared after missing a year to suspension, and Vance McDonald ready to take on a big role. Ben Roethlisberger played some of the best football of his career in the second half of the season and will have the best set of weapons he’s ever had around him in 2018.
While some key players such as McDonald and Joe Haden will not have to learn on the fly this year, the reality is that, frankly, Shazier is still missing. Bostic is a nice player but there is no substitute for the impact that the Pro Bowler had on the game. Just look at the turnovers that he produced over the past three seasons. Nobody else on the defense can do that. Or at least they haven’t done it.
The offensive line is getting older now and took a step back in the run game last season, with efficiency numbers way down. Le’Veon Bell will start the season rusty again and likely put up similarly inefficient numbers as a result.
Bryant showed what kind of player he is now a year ago, and Smith-Schuster will lose some of that rookie sheen as defenses know who he is now, not taking anybody by surprise. Roethlisberger will struggle to rediscover his late-season form.
Meanwhile, the defense will continue to lack the physicality necessary to counter the teams that have been successful against them lately, exposing their poor tackling as a team, though the big plays through the air will dwindle.