The 2020 NFL season is officially in the books, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers emerging victorious in what has been one of the most unique seasons in league history. Tom Brady and company blew out the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, serving as a reminder of just how hard it is to repeat—and how important offensive line play is to success.
But while the Buccaneers will surely take their time basking in their second championship in franchise history, the reality is that for all 32 teams, it’s back to 0-0. The 2021 NFL new league year doesn’t officially begin for another month and then some, but for all intents and purposes, it’s on to the next one.
That was the sentiment Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Mike Hilton expressed last night as the confetti dropped, posting a simple message on Twitter, saying, “2021 Season Starts Now!”. Of course, whether or not his 2021 season will take place with the Steelers remains to be seen, as he will be an unrestricted free agent in a year in which the salary cap is going backwards.
2021 Season Starts Now! #Focus
— Mike Hilton (@MikeHilton_28) February 8, 2021
The Steelers’ business of 2021 will be no small effort. Their first task is formulating a plan to become cap-compliant, which starts with coming together with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to parcel out a method of lowering his salary cap hit in an agreeable fashion. One thing we can probably count on is that he won’t be taking any pay cuts.
With some high-profile players hitting free agency such as Bud Dupree, JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Conner, and Alejandro Villanueva, the majority of whom have made the Pro Bowl at least once before in their career, Pittsburgh is going to have a different look, particularly on offense.
That also extends to a change at offensive coordinator, and arguably even offensive philosophy, with Matt Canada promoted to the post after one year as quarterbacks coach. While he was technically on the staff in 2020, he shouldn’t necessarily be viewed as an ‘in-house’ hire in the sense that he intends to retain the same scheme that has been in place for some time.
Even though they went 12-4 last season and won the AFC North, Steelers fans by and large find themselves very skeptical, not just about the team’s prospects in 2021, but into the future, assuming that Roethlisberger is incapable of winning them a championship, and seeing the discovery of a new franchise quarterback as the only way back to where they want to be: champions.