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 should bring in a veteran backup quarterback.
Explanation: The 2019 season raised serious concerns for many about the state of the quarterback position, or at least the backup role, behind Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers did post a combined 8-6 record with Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges under center, but they also threw as many interceptions as they did touchdowns, with the ‘success’ largely credited to the defense.
As good as the defense played last year, that’s not a level of play that they can count on sustaining. They have to expect that there will be some regression to a mean in 2020. They had multiple players break out with the best seasons of their careers, with three first-team All-Pros. They are the only team ever, since sacks became an official statistic, to lead the league in both that category and takeaways. That will not be duplicated.
And Roethlisberger can’t be viewed as anything but a wildcard right now. Maybe next month when we learn a bit more the conversation will change. Certainly there should be a semblance of clarity by the time free agency opens.
But right now, we have to assume there’s a legitimate possibility the backup is going to have a play a meaningful role in 2020, and the backups did not play well enough to justify not addressing it this offseason knowing the likelihood they will have to play.
Irrespective of whatever the defense might do, the fact is that the Steelers suffered a devastating in-season injury. At the bare minimum, they will have better accommodations and secondary plans in place this time around if Roethlisberger is not Roethlisberger.
That said, the backup role is fine. Both Rudolph and Hodges will grow and be better next year, in part because of their in-game experiences. Add to that the fact that they don’t have money to waste on a veteran backup, and the presence of Paxton Lynch, who himself is something of a veteran, and you see how it becomes unlikely the quarterback position is addressed at all via personnel this offseason.