If the Pittsburgh Steelers do fail this season, then you can’t say there weren’t plenty of people who were prepared for it. The defending AFC North champions have faced heavy scrutiny through every inch of the offseason process, perhaps especially on the decisions to retain quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and drafting a running back in the first round, leaving the offensive line until the end of Day 2 of the draft.
Bill Barnwell of ESPN is among the many who are not buying the Steelers’ turnaround narrative of the offseason, in their efforts to revamp their run game and create a more diverse and less predictable offense, while trying to retain a level of play on a defense that has lost three key starters. Barnwell writes in an Insider article that the Steelers have had the third-worst offseason in the NFL, bested (or worst-ed?) only by the Green Bay Packers and the Las Vegas Raiders.
Interestingly, he lists the retention of Roethlisberger as one of the things the Steelers got right this year, essentially chalking it up to a lack of alternatives. He also thought the re-signing of JuJu Smith-Schuster was key. But as you would expect, the defensive departures and the instability of the offenses line are cited as major weaknesses, with a clear hole at cornerback.
Then it gets curious, as, in a segment about what the Steelers could have done differently, he suggests that they ought to have drafted a player who was drafted before they were able to select. “Christian Darrisaw came off the board one pick before the Steelers at No. 23, but I have to think that they would have been better off with Darrisaw and a back such as Todd Gurley than they are with Harris and their current line situation”, he writes.
Yeah, well, Darrisaw wasn’t there, so frankly we may never know truly if he was an option. Art Rooney II said after the draft that the only nervousness in the building was over whether or not there were too many dots connected between then and Najee Harris. Then again, they may not have thought they had a realistic shot at drafting Darrisaw in the first place.
But not only did the Steelers pass up on drafting an offensive lineman — such as center Landon Dickerson — in the first round, they waited until the third before taking interior lineman Kendrick Green, and then doubled down in the fourth round with tackle Dan Moore Jr.
There isn’t much left for the team to do in terms of personnel over the summer. There will still be another contract restructure or two, and obviously, the priority is getting T.J. Watt under contract for the long haul. Barnwell brings up Minkah Fitzpatrick, but that deal quite obviously isn’t going to get done this year.