Depending on what sense you view it, the Pittsburgh Steelers haven’t had many bad seasons under General manager Kevin Colbert’s watch. Since joining the team in 2000, they have been in the playoffs all but seven times, winning nine division titles in the process, reaching the AFC Championship Game six times, the Super Bowl three times, and winning it all twice.
Things can be a lot worse, and that is the reality during that span for about 30 other organizations, give or take a very small handful. Only the Baltimore Ravens and New York Giants in that span, aside from the obvious, have won as many Super Bowls. Even more recently, only the New England Patriots have appeared in the postseason more frequently in the past six seasons.
But the NFL is a ‘what have you done for me lately’ business, and lately, the Steelers have lost four of their past six games, each loss contributing to a conspiracy that saw the Ravens pull up from several games back in the division to win the AFC North, sending the Steelers home.
It’s only somewhat of a coincidence that the team’s first non-playoff season since 2013 was followed up with their most aggressive offseason in recent memory, spending about $40 million in free agency on three players and making a bold trade up in the first round of the draft to add inside linebacker Devin Bush. Colbert talked about that yesterday on The Fan.
“That was what we could do under the circumstances we were in at that point last year”, referring to the fact that they have already parted with the three free agents they signed in 2018. “We had a little more cap flexibility this year, and we were willing to move on and add a Mark Barron and a Donte Moncrief and a Steven Nelson because we had some flexibility, and those guys have all been successful starters”.
Nelson figures to be a guaranteed starter, but the other two will have competition. Moncrief will battle second-year James Washington and rookie Diontae Johnson for playing time, while Barron will now have to face off against Bush.
“They’re still young, they’re probably in their prime type of players. They’ve been successful, and we had some flexibility to add them”, Colbert said, adding that “the three of them gave us good stability going into the draft, and we talked about really you’re going to be adding from the bottom up with the draft picks because these guys give you some stability”.
“I think we’ll be better off this year because we were able to do more in free agency than we’re usually able to do because we had some cap flexibility, and when you throw the draft picks in with them, collectively, we hope it’s obviously a better result because not being in the playoffs is a miserable existence”.
For a franchise used to competing for a championship almost on a yearly basis, the end of last season left a very sour taste in their mouths. They’ve taken just about every step this offseason they could be reasonably expected to take to avoid a repeat of that occurrence.