The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: The Steelers will play the playoffs in 2019.
Well, this is the question of the offseason, isn’t it? That’s what everything is building toward, and has been based on so far. The Steelers missed the postseason in 2018 for the first time in six years, ending a five-year playoff streak that was the franchise’s longest such run since the beginning of Bill Cowher’s tenure in the early 1990s.
The team may have lost Antonio Brown, but they have ways of manufacturing offense, and having another season under the belts of their two Pro Bowl skill players won’t hurt. More important is the pending improvement of the defense, however, with two new starters at cornerback and inside linebacker, and growth from within, particularly at the safety position.
And let’s be honest about the 2018 season. The pieces were there for the playoffs, without question. They missed it by a hair, and only because they shot themselves in the foot. They’ve addressed their pistol hand—five blown fourth-quarter leads in their seven non-win results—and still have the draft to do so.
And Chris Boswell can’t possibly be worse than he was last year.
The reality is, however, that the Steelers could be more consistent, and thus better than they were a year ago and still fail to reach the postseason, or at least fail to win the AFC North. The Baltimore Ravens were 4-5 before Lamar Jackson came in and went 6-1. While a lot of people are looking at him as fool’s gold, it’s up to defenses to prove it.
And then there’s the Cleveland Browns, who on paper look like a very talented team that could compete for the division title. And this is, again, a Steelers team that just lost 15 touchdowns with Brown gone.
We simply don’t know how big of an impact Brown’s absence over a full season is going to have yet, and that’s partially because we don’t know what James Washington and Donte Moncrief are going to bring to the table.