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 finish below .500 if they can’t manage to beat the Cincinnati Bengals.
Explanation: Off to an 0-3 start, the Steelers are heading into Monday’s game still looking for their first victory of the season. But so are the Bengals. And they play at home against a team they have beaten eight times in a row. The thinking is, if they can’t win this one, how many can they possibly win?
Well, it gets pretty easy once you get to 0-4, which is where the Steelers would be should they lose to the Bengals. They would have to be a .667 team for the rest of the season in order to stave off a losing record.
And they still have to play the Los Angeles Rams, the Los Angeles Chargers, the Indianapolis Colts, who are playing above expectations with Jacoby Brissett, the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns twice each, and a pair of teams, late in the year, who are on the rise in the Arizona Cardinals with Kyler Murray and the Buffalo Bills with Josh Allen. The New York Jets could be competitive as well, once Sam Darnold gets back into action.
It’s hard to imagine the Steelers winning eight of those games, even if they blow the Bengals out.
The Steelers have already come back from an 0-4 start to post a .500 record before, back in 2013. Granted, they had Ben Roethlisberger at that time, but Mason Rudolph can execute this offense as long as the rest of it is running smoothly.
The thing about this team is that they are a group that is in a transitional, growing phase. There is plenty of reason to believe that they will get better and better as the season grows, particularly relative to Rudolph in his new role and Minkah Fitzpatrick in his.
Add in new pieces like Devin Bush, Mark Barron, and Steven Nelson, not to mention Diontae Johnson and whatever Donte Moncrief intends to contribute, and the reality is that this is a team heading in the direction of finding answers to important questions. Once they start getting those answers, they can start winning more consistently.