Louis Riddick was just waxing poetically on ESPN NFL Live about the Steelers apparent willingness to allow two of their best players to walk away from the team during the same off season. He stated that sometimes owners, front office personnel, and coaches just like some players better than others and insinuated that the Steelers were choosing Ben Roethlisberger over Bell and Brown. He questioned the rational of that decision due to Ben's age compared to the other two gentlemen. While Riddick did acknowledge the fact that the Steelers front office obviously knows alot more of the behind the scenes activities of the individuals involved in the conversation, he openly questioned their commitment to a older player who seemingly struggles with leadership.
Usually Riddick appears to be well prepared and knowledgeable when he shares his thoughts and insights on all things NFL, but his comments about the Steelers current situation weren't up to his usual standards.
The Pittsburgh Steelers actually were without Bell's services for the entirety of last season. To make matters worse, the Steelers had the possibility of his eventual return hanging over their heads for a large portion of the season, a development which could only be described as a undesirable distraction for the team. The impact of this reality was diminished by the emergence of Pro Bowl RB James Conner and a mid season winning streak. The Steelers are more than prepared to move on from the loss of Le'Veon Bell, that was last seasons dilemma.
This off season the Steelers, for all intents and purposes, will part ways with superstar wide receiver Antonio Brown. The Steelers reached out to Brown this week to clear the air and see if the relationship between the Steelers and Brown was salvageable. The answer was a resounding no and now the Steelers are officially open to trading AB, but only if the offer meets their requirements. This situation is not optimal and an ugly situation may get even uglier before it is all said and done.
If the Steelers are able to find a favorable trading partner for Brown's services, the impact of his loss will definitely be felt on the field. As presently constructed, the Steelers aren't prepared to adequately absorb the mitigated loss of production that Brown's absence will have on the Steelers offense next season. It would appear the Steelers need to add a proven performer in free agency as well as utilizing a draft pick on the position. They will also need each returning player on offense to help pick up the slack. It won't be easy, but it is doable.
The cast of NFL Live also brought up a interesting little tidbit of information on today's broadcast. Only one team since 2000 has managed to win the Super Bowl with a All Pro running back or wide receiver on their roster that season. That is truly a staggering statement that only solidifies the common knowledge that football is the ultimate team sport and the fact that team chemistry and balance are more important than individual talents. The Steelers have been dealing with this reality for the last few seasons as they have repeatedly fallen short of winning a championship even though the Killer B's trio were quite possibly the most talented group of skill position players in the league. Defensive shortcomings and special team inadequacies have long been believed as the culprits for the Steelers failures, but recent revelations point to a lack of team chemistry as a major contributor to these less than stellar results.
The Steelers are presently in the process of remedying that situation. The age old adage of addition by subtraction will have to be utilized this off season with the necessary departure of some me first individuals that made the aspiration of team chemistry nearly impossible. The team appears determined to return to team principles and values, and to more clearly defined rules and enforcement of said rules.
It remains to be seen what the Pittsburgh Steelers roster will look like going into next season, and I for one find that rather exciting. This is the first off season I can recall in quite some time where I feel the Steelers may actually be active in free agency. Although I don't expect them to drastically change their ways overnight and suddenly throw huge guaranteed money at any potential free agent acquisition, I wouldn't be surprised if they were able to obtain a mid level player or two near the beginning of the free agency process that may be able to really help the team next season.
The line has been drawn in the sand and the Steelers are being dared to step across that line. The national media have stuck a pin in the Steelers championship chances and said they are done. That should be enough to bring out the competitor in every member of the Steelers roster and coaching staff. They didn't make it to the NFL level by backing down to a challenge, and I don't expect they will start now.
How do you respond when the whole NFL expects you to fail, even though you truthfully never really won anything with the two superstars you supposedly can't survive without? Now is the time to rally together as a team with a singular goal to prove all the naysayers wrong. All for one and one for all. I don't know about you, but I for one am excited to see what happens.