In real life, it's wise to not "wish your days away" looking too far into the future...but I think it's interesting to think about the state/direction of the team 5 years from now.
I'm certainly hoping/expecting a lot of offensive fireworks, along with a fast and improving defense, over these next five years...and hopefully another Lombardi trophy as well.
We know that Ben most likely will wrap things up at the end of his contract after the 2019 season. Conventional wisdom would dictate that the team may invest in its next quarterback sometime around May of 2018, but...
Will Le'Veon Bell be effectively wrapping up then as well? Bell logged 671 carries at Michigan State, including one 380+ carry season. Bell already has 530+ career carries in the NFL, plus almost 130 more receptions. If the team makes a final, aggressive "push" with Ben at the helm, they're not likely to limit Bell's touches in order to preserve him for post-Ben duties. Between rushes and receptions, it's safe to assume that Bell, barring injury, should accrue at least 350 touches each year moving forward (maybe closer to 400).
And so...if Ben hangs 'em up following the 2019 season, Bell would be an RB with easily 2,300 (and very possibly 2,500+) carries under his belt.
What about Antonio Brown? With already nearly 600 targets and nearly 400 receptions on his resume, Brown stands to continue to see heavy volume in the pass attack. If he continues to see around 170 targets and around 110 receptions per season, following the 2019 season, Brown will have 10 years of wear and tear on his body, 1400+ targets, and around 1,000 receptions. Even for a hard worker and a physical specimen like Brown, those numbers constitute significant mileage.
Maurkice Pouncey - 10 years in the trenches at the end of 2019. Cam Heyward at 9 years. Heath and Timmons retired by then as well.
I'm wondering...will the team even bother to draft a QB early in 2018? Will it be more of a "best player available" situation due to the number of forthcoming team needs? Will the writing be on the wall at that point, and significant rebuilding (and several years of early draft picks) viewed as essential? Will Ben's retirement mark the end of a successful era and the beginning of a late-1980's-esque rebuild?
What do you see as the direction of the franchise in 2019-2020?