The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2021 season is over, already eliminated from the postseason after suffering a 42-21 loss at the hands of Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. They just barely made the postseason with a 9-7-1 record and a little help from their friends.
This is an offseason of major change, with the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger, the possible retirement of general manager Kevin Colbert, and the decisions about the futures of many important players to be made, such as Joe Haden, Stephon Tuitt, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and others.
Aside from exploring their options at the quarterback position, the top global priority, once again, figures to be addressing the offensive line, which they did not do quite adequately enough a year ago. Dan Moore Jr. looks like he may have a future as a full-time starter, but Kendrick Green was clearly not ready. Chukwuma Okorafor is heading into free agency, as is Trai Turner.
These are the sorts of topics 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. There is rarely a concrete answer, but this is your venue for exploring the topics we present through all their uncertainty.
Question: Can the Steelers become a contender again without bottoming out?
If you took a poll of experts and self-styled experts surrounding the game of football right now and you asked them if the Steelers will be championship contenders either this year or next year, I would imagine that the overwhelming response would be no.
While they certainly have some talented players on both sides of the ball—namely, T.J. Watt, Najee Harris, Cameron Heyward, Pat Freiermuth, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and Diontae Johnson in particular, with Stephon Tuitt up in the air—you need more than a handful of Pro Bowl-level players to make a championship team.
Of course, it starts with the quarterback position, and I want to meet the person who puts a bet on Mason Rudolph taking the Steelers to a Super Bowl, because I’d like to see how much money I can get out of him.
Circumstances can change in an instant, though. What if, for example, Malik Willis falls to the Steelers, and he develops quickly, into a player somewhere between, say, Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray (to be clear, I’m not making direct comps here)?
The Steelers had a rather mediocre season last year and yet they’re still picking 20th in the draft. They don’t have a ton of draft capital, and their cap space is going to dry up quicker than you think—either that or they’re going to lose almost all of their free agents, thereby creating more holes that need filling.
If the Steelers keep going 7-10 to 10-7, can they realistically be a Super Bowl contender within the next five years? Or do they really have to, finally, at long last, bottom out before they can get back to the top?