Stop me if you’ve heard this before in the last few years: The Pittsburgh Steelers are facing a make-or-break season this fall.
It seems like the last three years or so has been all about the Steelers’ window closing and that if they can’t get over the hump with Ben Roethlisberger aging, that this could be the end current competitive window as we know it. Spoiler: The Steelers haven’t gotten over the hump in recent years, and yet here they still are…competing.
Well, the 2021 season is shaping up to be another one of those seasons, according to Bleacher Report, which listed the Steelers as one of five teams facing a make or break 2021 season, citing Roethlisberger’s age and the loss of some significant defensive pieces in free agency.
Bleacher Report’s Chris Roling had this to say about the Steelers as part of his five teams facing a make-or-break season piece.
“The clock on Big Ben continues to tick. Now 39 and working with a surgically repaired throwing elbow, Ben Roethlisberger is in what appears to be his final year with the Pittsburgh Steelers. It doesn’t help that last year a win-now core went a fluky 11-0 to start the season before finishing 1-4 down the stretch. The final game was a brutal loss to the Cleveland Browns in the playoffs,” Roling writes. “From that vantage point, things already seem to be declining. The Steelers lost franchise linebacker Bud Dupree in free agency and cut offensive line mainstay David DeCastro, so one could argue Big Ben might have to do more of the heavy lifting than usual.
“Should Roethlisberger falter, the Steelers are positioned to have about $76 million in free cap space in 2022. That’s prime rebuild territory if the franchise quarterback doesn’t return and assets like JuJu Smith-Schuster choose to play elsewhere in free agency. Granted, much will hinge on draft positioning and whether the front office truly feels Mason Rudolph can be the long-term answer under center. Either way, this looks like the swan song of the Big Ben era.”
The 2021 season may very well be the swan song for the Ben Roethlisberger era, but anything that happens in this season isn’t going to make or break the franchise one way or another. The Steelers will find themselves with more than $76 million in cap space, as Roling writes, and should be able to transition to Mason Rudolph right away for the 2022 season to see if he is the franchise guy. Should he fail, the Steelers could find themselves in great position to draft their next franchise guy.
In the end, it can’t truly be a make or break season when change is already on the horizon.