The Pittsburgh Steelers just experienced one of their most dramatic offseasons in recent memory, and it’s only turned June. They are coming off a season in which they failed to reason the playoffs even though they were in prime position to not only do so, but secure a bye week, with six games left to play.
And Pro Bowl left tackle Alejandro Villanueva believes that “it’s really good to be a Steeler right now”.
Truth be told, I find myself impressed by the way that the players have all come together in the very early stages of the offseason, almost as though they have been entirely unaffected by the media storms—multiple—that mired their team in controversy for months, even drawing more press during the playoffs than the teams that were still playing.
It’s just really interesting to see the stark contrast between how many, many people on the outside view the Steelers—it’s not difficult to find people ranking them in the bottom half of the league, finishing third in the division, etc.—and how they see themselves. And it’s hard not to wonder where it comes from.
“The team definitely feels a lot different”, Villanueva also said, the biggest differences being that two former All-Pros, wide receiver Antonio Brown and running back Le’Veon Bell, are no longer part of the team. “This is going to be my sixth year and this is by far the most amount of change, positive change that I’ve seen since I’ve been here”.
He declined to elaborate on what he was referring to regarding the positive change, only to add what I quoted above, that it is a good time to be a Steeler.
And there are legitimate football reasons to believe that. They did lose one majorly significant talent in Brown—Bell was effectively already gone in 2018, and they should be better prepared to replace him than they were on the fly last year—but they also gained some prominent pieces.
The defense in particular should see a boost from the drafting of Devin Bush in the first round, whom I predict will be a day-one starter at inside linebacker, and free agent acquisitions Steven Nelson at cornerback and Mark Barron, who will play wherever he fits, if he does not start over or with Bush.
Meanwhile, Brown’s exit gives JuJu Smith-Schuster more room to grow, and opportunities for others to contribute, including new faces, free agent Donte Moncrief, a veteran, and third-round pick Diontae Johnson, who was compared to Brown when he was coming out in 2010.
Is it a good time to be a Steeler? If that is best judged by wins and losses, then it is far too early to tell, but at least in the warm-up process, the players are feeling positive about what they are developing into the summer.