The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2020 season is now in the books, and it ended in spectacular fashion—though the wrong kind of spectacular—in a dismal postseason defeat at the hands of the Cleveland Browns, sending them into an early offseason mode after going 12-4 in the regular season and winning the AFC North for the first time in three years.
After setting a franchise record by opening the year on an 11-game winning streak, they followed that up by losing three games in a row, going 1-4 in the final five games, with only a 17-point comeback staving off a five-game slide. But all the issues they had in the regular season showed up in the postseason that resulted in their early exit.
The only thing facing them now as they head into 2021 is more questions, and right now, they lack answers. What will Ben Roethlisberger do, and what will they do with him? What will the salary cap look like? How many free agents are they going to lose? Who could they possibly afford to retain? Who might they part ways with—not just on the roster, but also on the coaching staff?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: At what positions would the Steelers most likely be able to draft a player who would start at some point in 2021?
Looking at the Steelers’ roster, there are certainly holes to be found. Perhaps not a ton of positions where you would clearly say that they need somebody better to start right away, but there are a number of areas where improvement could be desired.
So how many positions are there on the roster this year where it is likely that the Steelers could draft a player who would probably start this year? Center is the most obvious answer, I think, along with running back, with left tackle also qualifying, as well as inside linebacker and slot cornerback. Other areas of consideration could be outside linebacker, tight end, and even quarterback and guard.
Just like seemingly everything else in life, the NFL has become increasingly about short-term productivity over long-term development. Accelerating with the streamlining of the rookie wage scale in the 2011 CBA, teams have much more valued players on rookie contracts and have tried to extract as much value from them as possible.
In other words, more and more frequently, you have rookies and young players starting right away or very early in their career, rather than sitting and learning. Even the Steelers have had a lot more rookie starters over the past decade than had previously been the norm.