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: Playing the New England Patriots to start the season is a good thing.
Explanation: The Steelers were chosen this season to be the team to whom the defending Super Bowl champions play host for the first game of the season. That would be the Patriots, who just tied the Steelers for the most Super Bowl titles. Yet it was the same season in which the Steelers finally beat them.
It is definitely an asset to simply get the game out of the way. That way you don’t have to rely upon it late in the season being a critical game. If you need to be in a position where you have to play catch-up, playing the winningest team of the millennium, who continues to win half the Super Bowls, is not the route that you want to take.
It will also be the first game the Patriots have to play after Rob Gronkowksi retired. Now, the Patriots have played and played well without the future Hall of Fame tight end before—even won a Super Bowl while he was on injured reserve—but it’s always preferable to play New England when he’s not on the field, and to do so early in their adjustment period is more preferable still.
This question really comes down to perspective. While playing the Patriots early means you don’t have to play them later when there are fewer opportunities to make up a deficit, doing so also greatly increases the risk of getting the season off to the wrong foot. Having the Seattle Seahawks and then away at the San Francisco 49ers the next two weeks doesn’t help either.
And while the Patriots will be adjusting to life without Gronkowski, the Steelers will be adjusting to life without Antonio Brown, which is arguably even bigger. You can bet that Bill Belichick, who has already been highly complimentary of him, will have a detailed plan in place to shut down JuJu Smith-Schuster, and then…who steps up?