Steelers a 'Now-or-Never' team, whatever that means

Jason Bridge-US PRESSWIRE

The Pittsburgh Steelers and the New York Giants are considered "now or never" teams by NFL.com senior analyst Gil Brandt. It seems more like every team is a now-or-never team, and those with outstanding quarterbacks tend to do better over time.

NFL.com senior analyst Gil Brandt labeled the Pittsburgh Steelers as one of two "Now-or-Never" teams in the NFL - meaning the apparent window of opportunity teams have to win championships closes quickly, and the Steelers can take advantage of talent they have, but soon will not have.

I'm not even entirely sure what this means (maybe he works in the same field as Tobias Funke, as an analyst and therapist), but the phrase the team has heard over the last three years is re-surfacing; "The Steelers defense is getting older."

They've actually gotten younger in 2013 - nose tackle Steve McLendon replaces Casey Hampton, Jason Worilds replaces James Harrison and even Cortez Allen replacing Keenan Lewis is a nod to a more youthful player.

Even better, Brandt's assertion that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hitting the ripe old age of 31 has historical significance.

"In March, meanwhile, Ben Roethlisberger turned 31, the age at which most quarterbacks hit the wall and begin to regress, especially when it comes to key metrics like completion percentage, interceptions and touchdown passes."

Peyton Manning, at 36 years of age, tied Atlanta's Matt Ryan for the league lead in completion percentage at 68.6. New Orleans' Drew Brees, at 34 years, lead in touchdown passes. New England's Tom Brady will turn 36 in August, he led qualified starters with only 1.9 percent of his passes being intercepted.

Outside of the fact Brandt is categorically misleading in his statement, ironically, he could say Roethlisberger is still too young and make a more convincing argument. To be fair, the league is seeing an unprecedented climb in statistical achievement from its quarterbacks, but clearly, the marks being set by Brees, Manning and Brady - along with there being little to believe the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan and Matt Schaub will fall off incredibly from the stats they've produced the last four years - suggest the peak age of a passer is a bit higher than perhaps Brandt remembers.

Perhaps quarterbacks like Matt Cassel regress at 31. While Roethlisberger won't be compared historically to Brees, it is more ridiculous to suggest his career to date is comparable to Cassel's.

Besides, at 30, he looked just fine until a fluke injury basically ended his season in Week 10. Every team fortunate enough to have a high-level quarterback essentially gambles on the idea of keeping that player healthy through 16 games. It doesn't always happen, and in a salary cap league, it's a risk they have to take.

However, like New Orleans, New England and Denver, on virtual certainty is, if they get 16 games from their starting quarterback, they will be a competitive team.

It'll be that way until Roethlisberger is 32, 33 and 36.


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