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 uncertainty and short weeks of the past few games were a big issue for the Steelers, and having extra time for their next game will make a big difference in their performance.
Explanation: There hasn’t been another team in the league as significantly impacted by Covid-19-related scheduling changes as have the Steelers, which included multiple games being postponed multiple times, losing their bye week, losing their mini-bye week, and creating a short week for a game for which they were expected to have extra time. Now with eight days between games, they finally have time to catch their breath, rest their bodies, and work on some issues.
Any season is a game of attrition, but the physical nature of football makes it even more so in this sport. An accumulation of games played in short windows, and at unconventional times—who plays on a Wednesday afternoon?—certainly has an effect, both physically and mentally, on professional athletes.
The Steelers have been thrown off of their rhythm, and multiple players like Cameron Heyward have talked about this. Coaches have talked about how their practices in recent weeks have had to be lighter and more game-planning-focused because of the short windows.
This isn’t a team that has just suddenly fallen off a cliff. The roster is full of talent. It just needed a breather, a moment to ‘get right’, and I’m confident they will show that on Monday against the Cincinnati Bengals.
But we’re really not talking about beating the Bengals. Their two games after that are far tougher, against the Indianapolis Colts and the Cleveland Browns, the latter on the road. Even if they blow out the Bengals again, who are starting a backup quarterback, it won’t tell us much of anything.
And professionals don’t get to use excuses. As Mike Tomlin said way back in the beginning, “we do not care” about the challenges faced. You show up when and where you’re told and play the game. It’s up to you to be ready for it. Football is still blocking and tackling. You don’t need to know when you’re scheduled to do that in order to do it well.