The Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl window won’t close after this season. So long as Ben Roethlisberger is this team’s quarterback, they have a shot.
But this time next year, their chances of hoisting a Lombardi will have greatly diminished.
Several key pieces on the team this season will be playing elsewhere next. You probably know the names by heart now but as a reminder, here are the notable Steelers set to hit free agency come March.
LT Alejandro Villanueva
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster
RB James Conner
LG Matt Feiler
RT Zach Banner
NT Tyson Alualu
OLB Bud Dupree
CB Mike Hilton
CB Cam Sutton
Best case, pick three of those names and be very economical with two of those choices (aka you can’t pick JuJu, Dupree, and Hilton – not happening). It’s the world’s worst Choose Your Own Adventure. Where every option has you feeling worse than you started.
Sure, the cap is largely a myth. That’s been proven by team after team this season (Kansas City, New Orleans, the Rams) but even playing with the numbers has its limits, especially with the way Pittsburgh structures their contracts. They don’t play as fast and loose with language, voidable years, like other teams to create short-term space. Players like Villanueva, Smith-Schuster, Dupree, and probably Hilton will be too expensive to fit under the 2020 cap even *if* it comes in higher than the floor of $175 million.
It’s a reality Steelers’ fans have to accept. Don’t blame the front office for this. They’ve always been in win-now mode, rightfully so, and kicking the can down the road made sense as the cap number spiked year after year. No one anticipated a global pandemic that changed everything.
Without money to re-sign their own, Pittsburgh obviously won’t be able to make much of a splash in free agency, not that that’s ever Plan A for this franchise anyway. The only path to replacing the laundry list of names is through the draft. Kevin Colbert admitted the 2021 draft will be one of the most difficult ever to evaluate. Half of college football isn’t playing, throngs of players have opted out, teams can’t scout in-person like previous years, and who knows what actual draft season will look like. Hopefully those rookies won’t have to be plug ‘n play but at LT, nickel corner, and potentially OLB depending on how Alex Highsmith looks, they may be pressed into action.
I don’t mean to throw cold water on 2020. I’m excited for the year and you absolutely should be too. This is a Super Bowl winning roster. All the pieces are in place. Offense, defense, special teams. They’ll compete for the AFC North crown. They’ll compete for a Lombardi.
Let’s just hope they make 2020 count. Next year’s going to be a lot harder.