The Pittsburgh Steelers (likely) just watched their season end in winning fashion, going out by taking down the Cincinnati Bengals to post a 4-1-1 division record during a 9-6-1 season. The Baltimore Ravens just edged out the Cleveland Browns to give them their first division title in years, and Pittsburgh’s only chance of playing another game for this season is if tonight’s game ends in a tie.
So it’s only natural to start thinking about next season, and when you have an old quarterback, that’s probably where you’re going to start. While quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has made less indecisive comments about his future since his evident consideration of retirement following their postseason exit in 2016, he still hedges as much as he possibly can to the ‘one year at a time’ approach.
With one year (most likely) out of the way now, however, it’s never too early to start thinking about the next, so it’s only natural that Roethlisberger was already asked about the 2019 season. “I’ll be back and feel good”, he told reporters, noting that he still has a year left on his contract. As long as Maurkice Pouncey is back, he will too, he said.
A couple years back, Pouncey, a 2010 first-round draft pick, said that he would hang it up when Roethlisberger does. When Roethlisberger started talking about retirement, the center said that he hoped the quarterback would at least give him a couple more years.
While the Steelers did not have the season that were looking to have—that they should have had—this is still a team with a lot of talent, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster were the top one-two combo at wide receiver in the NFL this year, and that would be a hard thing to turn away from.
Brown still has two more seasons on his big contract, and Smith-Schuster is only heading into the third year of his four-year rookie deal, while James Washington will only be in year two during the 2019 season.
The offensive line has continued to be among the very best in the league, but we’ll have to see about the moving parts. Will Ramon Foster choose to sign elsewhere in free agency if he gets the better offer? Will the team retain Marcus Gilbert? They did play most of the year without him.
One of the things I’m most interested in is how they tweak things for year two under a Randy Fichtner offense following a solid debut. They went insanely pass-heavy this year, but that was when they thought they would have Le’Veon Bell, for one thing. They could have a more stable gameplan on the ground next year to have more balance.