Without overstating the obvious, it's pretty safe to say that the mood over on the South Side of Pittsburgh at Steelers HQ this past off-season has been one of angst. You don't get the warm and fuzzies when you miss the post-season for two straight years with .500 records. Given the fact this team started 0-4 in 2013 and still managed to keep themselves in the race for a playoff spot is one bright spot, but that again was last year.
So after a winter of changes that saw two key WRs depart, (Emmanuel Sanders Jerricho Cotchery) along with changes on the defensive side, namely, Ryan Clark, LaMarr Woodley and Brett Keisel, this team has lost a sizable amount of veteran leadership and experience it must replace. Grabbing Mike Mitchell from Carolina to help bolster a struggling secondary was good. Adding Lance Moore at WR was merely a band-aid on a gaping cut.
Given the cap constraints general manager Kevin Colbert faces, he's done about the best job he can. And with the disappointment of the last few draft classes, he and his staff had to hit a home run in the May NFL Draft. By all accounts, they have done so, not by addressing needs but by gathering talent that can be molded and placed accordingly.
With a need at ILB, Colbert spent his 15th pick on a beast in Ryan Shazier. His speed and skill are eye popping and jaw dropping but has yet to put on the pads and get physical. 2nd round pick Stephon Tuitt has size and could make an impact at DE also early on. And what will 3rd rounder Dri Archer do in the Todd Haley offense?
So many questions. So little time before we see result.
Or utter failure.
Given past history, I'm willing to bank on this season being unlike the past two.
This franchise won't stand for it. Ownership doesn't demand success. It's expected. Period. Mike Tomlin knows what's at stake. Reputation aside, he knows if he fails a 3rd straight season at making the playoffs, that there will be a larger groundswell to see changes in the FO. Colbert is already under fire for underperforming drafts in recent years. Todd Haley is public enemy #1 because of how he and Ben have co-existed since joining the staff in 2012.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand that winning is a cure all for what ales you. Simply put, the Steelers can wipe the slate clean with a winning record, a playoff spot and even the cherry-on-top crown of winning the AFC North. Nothing beats winning, and that's the Steelers way.
I don't have a crystal ball. The last time I checked, I wasn't hosting Long Island Medium. But if I had to wager dollar to doughnut, I'd bet my last chocolate chip cookies on the Steelers being back where they belong. Among the elite of the NFL. Contending rather than pretending. More Steelers than Browns.
Restoring balance to the NFL force is as simple as making the AFC playoffs for the Steelers. Come September 7th we should get a feel for that and what we can expect for 2014.
John Phillips is a radio personality for 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh and a columnist for Behind The Steel Curtain. His articles will be posted twice weekly beginning with live reporting in Training Camp July 25. Check him out on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.