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 shouldn’t make significant investments in the offensive line until Ben Roethlisberger’s current contract is over.
Explanation: When the Steelers hired Todd Haley in 2012, it was with the mission of reshaping Ben Roethlisberger, and the offensive line, with an eye toward prolonging his career. They did accomplish that as he heads into his 17th season. Part of the process was building the offensive line that will see him to the end of his career. Assuming the end of his career is the end of this contract, then they have done that, and it can be argued that maximizing his championship window means investing elsewhere until then.
If your championship window coincides with your championship quarterback, then you don’t invest in areas that are already strong. The offensive line is still strong, even if it’s on its downswing. David DeCastro is still a top guard, Maurkice Pouncey remains a very good center, and Alejandro Villanueva and Matt Feiler are both very capable tackles, while the left guard position could be in position, yet nonetheless in good hands.
Unless there develops a major hole and you have a one-shot opportunity to fill it with a plug-and-play starter, it makes so much more sense right now to give Roethlisberger weapons. That would make a bigger overall difference than whatever minor strength might be gained from bolstering his already-strong protection.
History has shown that those who let their offensive line go when they think it’s at its strongest tend to go through a very rough patch before they make it right. That is what happened to the Steelers from roughly 2008 through 2013 before they fixed it all up.
Whoever is the quarterback after Roethlisberger is going to need to be protected as well. The Steelers’ defense has too much potential for the years ahead to dismiss any position to the point where it runs the risk of becoming a liability.
And investing in the offensive line is not just about the passing game. The run blocking can definitely be improved, and building a strong run game would help not just Roethlisberger, but especially anybody who might succeed him.