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: Even at full strength, the offense isn’t good enough to win games without the defense turning the ball over.
Explanation: The Steelers have failed to turn the ball over in two games this season. They are the only two games of the year in which they lost by double digits, the only game in which they were not competitive in the end. Even when they were not capitalizing on them, the defense’s takeaways had become a seemingly essential ingredient in the gameplan for the Steelers.
I think we’ve seen it. I mean, sure, maybe they might manage to beat the Cincinnati Bengals or perhaps the New York Jets, but the Steelers haven’t put up a single game this year in which the offense looked legitimately good. There might have been a quarter or two here and there in which they resembled a competent unit, but there is almost always something going wrong.
Mason Rudolph has played some good ball at different portions of the year, but even when he is on his game, others are not. Dropped passes and fumbles have plagued the skill positions, and the offensive line has not been able to block for the running game about 80 percent of the time. And when they do, unless they have James Conner, their backs don’t have the vision or speed to take advantage of the holes they do get.
All the Steelers need to do is stop with the unforced errors. If they actually have their full complement of players available to them, then this can be a good offense, period, with the only caveat being that they can’t keep beating themselves.
JuJu Smith-Schuster has good hands. James Washington has good hands. Jaylen Samuels has good hands. But they’ve all had butterfingers this year for mysterious reasons. Maybe they’re pressing to make plays.
But there has to be a regression to the mean at some point. They can’t keep beating themselves. The Steelers have enough talent at every position on offense to win. They can win. They just haven’t been without the benefit of a thieving defense.