During the lull of the offseason in lead up to training camp, news can come to a screeching halt when it comes to the NFL and more specifically, the Pittsburgh Steelers. We may have situations arise like that of Dwayne Haskins’s wife knocking his teeth in during an argument or new come out that Ben Roethlisberger is attempting to put Tom Brady’s strict diet to shame to be considering “in the best shape of his life”, but one way or another, many of these headlines tend to fall into that offseason fodder we gravitate toward until real football resumes.
This raised a thought in my mind the other day. “If Steelers Nation could choose one former player from the past to join the 2021 roster in their prime, who would they choose?” Now this question carries a lot of weight given the lengthy history of all-time Steeler-greats, but also the question of whether to choose the biggest positional need over possibly the best overall player. Many could point to Joe Greene as an obvious choice given what he did in his prime and what he means to Pittsburgh Steelers lore. However, given the strength on the defensive line heading into 2021, who this be the ideal selection?
I could see some fans yelling to the rafters asking for Terry Bradshaw to replace a “washed-up” Ben Roethlisberger, but are we so convinced that Bradshaw at his prime would thrive in today’s passing league the way Ben has performed the last several years when healthy? That is a topic for discussion for another day.
I started to look at possible positions of need and which former players would fit the bill to sure up said positions. Growing up in the 2000s and being a EDGE rusher myself in my football playing days, I have a special fondness in my heart for the likes of James Harrison and Joey Porter who in their primes would be absolute terrors across from T.J. Watt. Kevin Greene and Greg Lloyd of the 90s “Blitzburgh” teams would also be great options to form a dynamic duo with Watt on the other side for a potentially lethal combination in the pass rush department.
Sure, the 2021 team has Alex Highsmith coming into Year Two and looking poised for a bigger role, but you can’t sit here today saying you would prefer Highsmith over the names listed above instead of Highsmith being a solid #3 EDGE rusher for a dominate defensive front.
My eyes immediately turned to the secondary and pictured Troy Polamalu and Minkah Fitzpatrick lining up next to each other in the defensive backfield, putting fear in the hearts of the offenses they would face given their instincts and playmaking ability in the backend to be interchangeable chess pieces that you can maneuver around to cover up other potential holes in the secondary.
Rod Woodson would immediately answer a lot of the questions at CB for the 2021 team, having been recognized as a lockdown corner back in his day with a nose for taking the ball away and creating key turnovers the defense needs to be championship-caliber this season.
Mel Blount would be a force to reckon with as a tall, long, physical CB on the boundary across from Joe Haden that would kick Cam Sutton into the slot and be great in contested catch situations. My question is whether he would draw too many flags in today’s game which favors the offense so heavily in the passing game given the fact he had the “Mel Blount Rule” named in his honor.
I know he burned all the bridges on his way out of Pittsburgh a couple of years ago, but Antonio Brown back in the Black and Gold would be an extremely enticing as well. Mind you, this would be prime AB who was leading the league in receiving yards and TDs for the better part of a decade, making the current receiving core almost uncoverable.
You could also consider names like Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, and even Santonio Holmes who was lightning in a bottle for much of the team’s 2008 run to an eventual Super Bowl title, but the question would arise whether WR is more of a luxury rather than actually a need.
I can hear it now. “What about the offensive line!” Don’t worry; we are going to cover them as well. There are so many routes you could take here to shore up a battered unit upfront from what the team has had the past decade. Take your pick of Hall of Famers’ Mike Webster, Dermontti Dawson, Alan Faneca and others to lock down a position along the offensive front.
Adding one of these guys could go a long way in helping keep Ben protected and clear running lanes for Najee Harris this upcoming season. The question I would pose though is whether adding one guy upfront would help the situation enough over adding another position at wide receiver, cornerback, EDGE, or somewhere else that could be seen as “more impactful”.
As you can see, there are a lot of good choices here and plenty of which I probably failed to mention that I expect to come up in the comments section at the conclusion of this article. Personally, I would look to choose a player that could best encapsulate “need” and “talent” to make the biggest impact on the current roster as it stands today.
I would probably lean either Woodson or Polamalu given the recent losses in the secondary and the overall impact either could provide to shore up the backend while provide the defense with a proven asset at generating turnovers and making the rest of the members of the defense better with what they can do on a football field. I would love to see a prime Harrison or Greene line up across from T.J. Watt as well to form possibly the most dominate edge rush tandem in the league, but the secondary would still be a legitimate question mark.
The prospect of having an unstoppable offense with a prime AB or Holmes to round out the passing game and provide that receiver who has performed in the clutch moments before also is a tempting idea, but again, I see this more as a luxury pick than an actual need.
What are your thoughts on this scenario and who would you personally choose to add to the 2021 Steelers roster? What is your rationale behind your selection and is it from addressing a need perspective or simply wanting to watch one of your all-time favorite players suit up and play in this era? Please leave your thoughts and reasoning in the comments section below and thanks again for reading!