If it weren’t for the helpful hints from Pittsburgh Steelers fans, one might actually think that the sky isn’t falling over the city as far as their favorite football team is concerned. After all, they did manage to play well enough to win 12 games over the course of the season and to win their division—the only division in the league that sent three teams to the playoffs.
And yet there are many who are ready to blow up the team and nearly start over from scratch. Of course, there are a few key pieces that you want to keep around, like T.J. Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick, and perhaps Chase Claypool, but those who are convinced that their championship window is closed are ready for a reset.
Should the Steelers be? Obviously, they won’t do that. They might never do that, at least with the current ownership. It’s not in the Rooney DNA to dump a team. The goal is always to try to win now, and so it will be in 2021. What do the outsiders say?
ESPN recently put together an article ranking each team by the level of work that the need to do in order to become competitive, referring to them as ‘overhaul tiers’. You might be surprised, perhaps even angered, to learn that they rank Pittsburgh pretty favorably.
The top tier is the contenders, and only two teams—the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs—are listed. Three more teams fall into the category of being ‘on the brink’—the Green Bay Packers, the Buffalo Bills, and…the Cleveland Browns. The New Orleans Saints have their own category as being in the need of a financial reset.
Then there is a group of six teams deemed to be ‘on the right track’, and this is where the Steelers fall, alongside the Los Angeles Rams, the Seattle Seahawks, the Indianapolis Colts, the Arizona Cardinals, and the Miami Dolphins.
“Have a big-picture, philosophical discussion about the offense”, the article reads about the team’s offseason priorities. “The short passing game stalled out late in the year, the running game is among the league’s worst and Ben Roethlisberger turns 39 in March. He’s also due a cap hit of $41.25 million the last year of his deal. The Steelers must determine the viability of Big Ben’s no-huddle, five-wide attack.
“Pittsburgh must make cap concessions all over the roster, making re-signing key players Smith-Schuster, Villanueva and James Conner an arduous task”, it goes on. “The cleanest path is to let some free agents walk, release a few veterans, pay T.J. Watt and keep drafting well”.
Are the Steelers on the right track? I think many would disagree, given that their track involves keeping Roethlisberger around for another season. But be that as it may, there is no reason they can’t return to the postseason in 2021.