The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the offseason, following a year in which they had high hopes for Super Bowl success, but ultimately fell short of even reaching the postseason at 8-8. It was a tumultuous season, both on the field and within the roster, and the months to follow figure to have some drama as well, especially in light of the team’s failure to improve upon the year before.
The team made some bold moves over the course of the past year, and some areas of the roster look quite a bit different than they did a year ago, or even at the start of the regular season. Whether due to injuries or otherwise, a lot has transpired, and we’re left to wonder how much more will change prior to September.
How will Ben Roethlisberger’s rehab progress as he winds toward recovery from an elbow injury that cost him almost the entire season? What about some of the key young players, some of whom have already impressed, others still needing quite a bit of growth? Will there be changes to the coaching staff? The front office? Who will they not retain in free agency, and whom might they bring in?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: Who will have a longer career in Pittsburgh between JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner?
Both third-year guys, both with a Pro Bowl in their back pocket. Both coming off very disappointing seasons, also hampered by injury. Both were beloved prior to this season, and now a lot of people are turning on them—particularly among those who only value athletes as sources of personal entertainment.
Both draft selections after round one in 2017, they are now also both heading into the final year of their rookie contract. It’s not guaranteed that either of them will receive an extension prior to the start of the season, let along that both of them will.
The wide receiver and running back positions are in an interesting spot right now, in part because they are waiting upon the future development of ‘younger’ players. In the case of the running back position, you have Benny Snell, who would like to show he is capable of being a featured runner, and other complementary pieces like Kerrith Whyte, who could be interesting to develop.
Then of course at wide receiver, you have James Washington and Diontae Johnson. Washington led the team in yards, Johnson in receptions and touchdowns. They stepped up, playing with a number-four quarterback, while Smith-Schuster was sidelined. What can they do in 2020?
There are a lot of questions that the Steelers might want to answer—including what Conner and Smith-Schuster will look like after their injury-filled seasons—before committing future dollars to these players, depending upon the asking price.