The 2018 NFL season was a disappointing season for the Pittsburgh Steelers, to say the least. Actually, the last handful of seasons have all ended well short of expectations. Even though the Steelers have been blessed for a number of years with some of the best skill position players in the league, they have zero titles to show for it. The excuses have been plentiful; ranging from injuries, suspensions, holdouts, etc. Through all the underachieving seasons there have been two constant concerns breathing down the Steelers neck, Father Time and the New England Patriots.
The Patriots are like a masked killer in any slasher flick, and the Steelers have represented the libido crazed teenagers. You know the stereotype. Good looking, care free, over confident, and always engaging in questionable behavior. The Patriots have been closing in on their status of most Super Bowl titles by a franchise, but the Steelers have proven incapable of doing anything to stop the assault.
The Steelers have resembled a panicking teen who is running aimlessly at full speed in no particular direction, repeatedly tripping over their own feet for no apparent reason, as the theme music eerily gets louder as the steady gait of the killer inexplicably allows him to overtake the victim. That perfectly describes the Patriots in their pursuit; consistent unrelenting pressure. The Patriots have finally caught the Steelers and a new question arises. What will the Steelers do now?
The Steelers really only have two options, fight or die. The Steelers can accept their fate and perish, similar to the scantily clad cheerleader or the token virgin nerd who are always earmarked as the first to die. The other option is to take a page from the mysterious, troubled loner with a backstory that inevitably fights to survive. The realization that survival may require mimicking your opponent's unfamiliar strategy. This off season for the Pittsburgh Steelers will offer visual evidence of what type of franchise they want to be.
As Anthony Defeo detailed in an article just this week, the Steelers have already displayed an apparent shift in team building principles during the past couple of drafts. After apparently getting their fill of the talented me first players already under contract, the Steelers have narrowed their search to potential draft picks of high character who possess reputations of being good teammates. I fully expect that trend to continue this off season, especially considering this past drama filled season of discontent.
While that is a good place to start, it really is only the tip of the iceberg. The Steelers need to reexamine their entire modus operandi if they intend on winning another Super Bowl in today's NFL.
The Steelers franchise is renowned for loyalty, to their players and their coaches. But loyalty goes both ways, and society standards have changed even though the Rooneys have not. At one time a man's word was his bond, and a handshake was as good as a signed contract. Not being a man of your word would bring disgrace to your family. That is no longer the case, nor how business is done.
The Steelers have displayed loyalty to a few players lately that haven't responded in kind. Instead of sacrificing their individual stats and talents for the betterment of the team, these particular individuals have been more concerned with setting salary precedents and their business portfolios. Art Rooney II gambled on a couple of high risk propositions, and lost. His father liked games of chance, but knew when he had a losing hand. Art II may be able to hedge his bets, and still get something in return? Only time will tell.
Although the off season has just officially started, the Steelers have already made some huge decisions. The expected changes to the coaching staff never materialized, and the changes were few and uneventful. Hopefully this display of loyalty will prove enlightening when it is all said and done.
The team has already verbally committed to extending Ben's contract and made known their desire to keep the offensive line intact, but decisions on some of their own UFAs remain. Those decisions, especially along that offensive line, may prove vexing.
Also, will the Steelers finally utilize free agency to obtain proven talent by offering more guaranteed money to free agents, or be more aggressive in trading up for a preferred target in the draft? Answers to these questions will undoubtedly shape the Steelers ability to contend in the near future, and beyond.
Whatever the decisions may be, the Pittsburgh Steelers have to find a balance between old school values and new age principles.
The Pittsburgh Steelers need an aggressive approach this off season because the Patriots have proven to be far from finished. Just like all the infamous killers from the movies, Brady and Belichick keep coming back when you least expect it. Just ask the Atlanta Falcons.