With the 2020 season coming to a close upon the culmination of the Super Bowl this Sunday, it’s a fitting time to reflect upon the state of every team that failed to make it this far. Only two teams play in every game, and the NFL is a 32-team league, which means that there are 30 teams sitting on the sidelines thinking about what more they must do to get on that field.
That extended list includes the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have been spectators now for a decade. Their last Super Bowl appearance was back in 2010, since which time they have only recorded three postseason victories, falling in 2015 and in 2016, the latter year of which they were able to reach the AFC Championship Game.
ESPN recently put out an article examining the ‘Super Bowl timeline’ of each team, essentially gauging which teams are obvious contenders for the title, who are on the cusp of being in that conversation, and dividing the rest by how many years away they might be from contending, up to four.
The Steelers did not make either of the first two groups, but were included in the ‘Still A Year Away’ group that also featured the Indianapolis Colts, the Cleveland Browns, the San Francisco 49ers, the Tennessee Titans, and the Arizona Cardinals.
“Team president Art Rooney II said the Steelers weren’t going to enter a tear down and rebuild phase after the shocking loss in the wild-card round”, Brooke Pryor wrote. “They’re still building a team with an eye on a championship in the near future, even if that’s somewhat unrealistic with a salary cap crunch keeping them from re-signing their most important free agents.”
“They’ll have to restructure and extend contracts while cutting other veterans to keep as much of the core together”, he continues. “Rooney said the Steelers will keep as much of the defense together as possible while looking at significant turnover on the offensive side”.
Unsurprisingly, their biggest X factor was identified as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, arguing that his best shot at winning another title—was last year. “Rooney said Roethlisberger can’t return with the contract’s current construction of a $41.2 million cap hit, meaning he’ll either take a pay cut or a restructure if he doesn’t retire”, Pryor notes.
“The Steelers’ future hinges on Roethlisberger’s decision. Either he returns for one more season or he retires and they have to turn it over to Mason Rudolph, Dwayne Haskins or another quarterback — an addition Rooney acknowledged was necessary”.
Truth be told, if Roethlisberger isn’t going to win them a Super Bowl, then they’re more than a year out, because they’re not going to find a future franchise quarterback within the next 12 months. But we all already know that.