Christmas Day is upon us and families around the world are celebrating the holiday season with Christmas trees, gifts, and time to enjoy food, fellowship, and likely some NFL football on the television. Now as is tradition during Christmas, the story goes that Santa Claus comes during the night to give presents either under the Christmas tree or in stockings for those who have been good this year. In the case of Pittsburgh Steelers fans, we all have tried to remain faithful to our favorite team despite the highs-and-lows the team has had this season. So, to get into the festive spirit, here are five things Steelers fans likely would like to find under their Christmas trees tying back to Steeler Nation.
1. A Playoff Berth
The Steelers currently sit on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoff hunt, sitting behind the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC North division standings with the Cleveland Browns right behind them. While Pittsburgh may need to win its final three games to claim a spot in the playoffs, it seems like an accomplishable task. Sure, the Kansas City Chiefs are no easy out as the AFC favorites at the moment, but a slew of covid cases affecting their top players could put the Chiefs in a bind come Sunday. Combine that with the struggles of the Ravens and Browns recently with injuries to key players, and the path to the playoffs for Pittsburgh seems feasible.
2. The Return of OL Coach Mike Munchak
It was reported earlier this week that OL Coach Adrian Klemm would be leaving Pittsburgh at the conclusion of the 2021 season to take the same position with the University of Oregon, deciding to revert to the college level rather than try and continue to rebuild this extreme makeover along the offensive line in Pittsburgh. Now it may be a fool’s dream, but should the Denver Broncos staff be switched up this offseason, many Steelers fans would welcome back Mike Munchak with open arms. He began his tenure in Pittsburgh back in 2015 and played a prominent role in the development of one of the top OL units for the next five seasons.
The cohesion along the OL hasn’t been the same since Munchak has left as Pittsburgh ranks near dead-last in every statistical category when it comes to OL play. While investing draft capital or cap space in high-profile FAs, bringing back the architect behind the stellar OL play in Pittsburgh may be the best move for this unit struggling to maintain any consistency this season.
3. A Veteran QB at the Helm in 2022
It has been well-documented that HC Mike Tomlin isn’t interested in giving the reigns to the franchise to a rookie QB in 2022 if Ben Roethlisberger decides to hang it up after this season. If that is the case, Pittsburgh will have to decide whether to roll with in-house options like Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins or choose to look outside the organization for a veteran option if drafting a possible successor early isn’t high on the Steelers’ priority list. If that is the case, many will point to the saga with QBs Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson and the apparent disagreements both have had with their respective franchises. It would require a lofty trade to get either of these options, as well as Deshaun Watson who is dealing with his own baggage, but all three can be that franchise signal caller who elevates the talent around them to make a capable playoff push.
As we well know, Tomlin and GM Kevin Colbert are in no business of rebuilding and say their goal is to compete for a Super Bowl every year, so acquiring a veteran QB this offseason makes a lot of sense. However, instead of a headliner name, free agent options like Marcus Mariota, Jacoby Brissett, Jameis Winston, or even a potential trade target of QB Derek Carr could all suffice of providing a veteran presence that brings the mobility factor Tomlin has spoken about many times this season and allow Pittsburgh to allocate resources to other positions via the draft and free agency to build up the rest of the roster.
4. A Coordinator Change in 2022
I respect the deep tradition of the Pittsburgh Steelers and their loyalty to their coaching staff as much as anyone. The fact that they have only had three head coaches since 1969 in a league that is so volatile when it comes to job security is a testament to the organization and how the Rooney’s place their faith and patience on the people they hire. However, after the defense has struggled mightily this season, playing some of the worst run defense in Steelers’ history, it’s time for new blood at the helm.
Granted, DC Keith Butler hasn’t been given any favors given the fact that his 2020 unit has been decimated due to losses in FA, cuts, and injuries, but other teams are expected to overcome the same adversities Pittsburgh has faced this season, thus the results haven’t been there with scheme and coaching to overcome these losses. The same can be said for the offensive side of the football where OC Matt Canada hasn’t had any semblance of success establishing a running game or utilizing his pre-snap motion, he became known for at the college level to open up the passing game. I understand that familiarity is important, but this is a league that is driven by results, and Pittsburgh should look to make necessary changes.
5. An Aggressive Approach Going Forward
Kevin Colbert often was known for being conservative when it came to his dealing as GM, having a specific type of player he selects in the NFL Draft as often referenced by Dave Bryan and Alex Kozora on The Terrible Podcast as well as a specific type of FA signing that is low-budget, band-aid like in nature rather than making a big splash. To Colbert’s credit, he made more of a splash this season when it came to FA, signing more high-profile players from outside the organization over the age of 30 in attempt to compete. Many of these signings and trades having panned out well for Colbert, but the effort has been there compared to previous seasons.
It has been speculated that Colbert may step away after this season from his role of GM at the same time Ben retires. Whether or not that is the case, this team needs to look at examples outside across the league in terms of roster construction to truly field a playoff-contending roster in the future. Many of their draft picks over the last few years haven’t panned out and the team’s depth is always tested after one significant player goes down. Combine that with a lack of impactful FA signings the last few seasons, and you have a team walking the line of mediocrity when it comes to the rest of the NFL.
Consistency and stability are needed in this business, and the Pittsburgh Steelers have been a great example of that over the last few decades. However, for this team to reach the promised land and hoist another Lombardi Trophy in the near future, calculated risks need to be made, thus a more aggressive approach by Colbert or whoever the next GM of the Steelers will be could help this borderline-playoff team the last several years truly take a step forward into a title contender that Pittsburgh fans deserve.
What are your thoughts on the gifts for the Steelers provided above? Which of these presents would you exclude, and what would you add under the Christmas tree as a gift to Pittsburgh Steelers fans? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below, thanks again for reading, and I hope you all have a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!