“JuJu Smith-Schuster isn’t a number one receiver.”
“James Conner is not the answer at running back.”
“Ben Roethlisberger is done. We need his contract off the books.”
“Stephon Tuitt can’t stay healthy so we should be looking for his replacement.”
“The Steelers have no choice but to sign Bud Dupree at all costs.”
First and foremost, I’m not saying that any of these statements aren’t necessarily true. There is some truth to everything being said above. Whether or not these statements will continue to be true through the 2020 season remains to be seen. But every statement above has one thing in common...
They are only looking at 2019.
Don’t get me wrong, we should not just erase the 2019 season from our memories and not learn anything from what happened throughout the year. But if we are going to look at this past season as our only sample to draw widespread conclusions, we may be writing off players— or crowning them— too early.
In looking at the first three statements, all of which I’ve seen multiple times on comments or message boards, they are in regards to three players who each of which were Pro Bowlers in either 2017 or 2018. Both Conner and Smith-Schuster made the Pro Bowl in 2018 while Ben Roethlisberger threw for over 5,000 yards. So in one season, a player can go from top of the world to out the door. Not just one player, three players.
Yes, each of those three players has something which could be concerning. Ben Roethlisberger is no spring chicken (which means he isn’t as young as he used to be if you don’t understand my country vernacular). James Conner has yet to play more than 14 games in a season. JuJu Smith-Schuster needs to show he can produce when another receiver is not taking the double coverage. But after one season where things were so out of the ordinary, are we going to allow these things to solely determine our judgment?
As for Stephan Tuitt, it doesn’t even go back in entire season. Through the first six games, Tuitt was having arguably a better season than All-Pro Cameron Heyward before he ended up on Injured Reserve. But since he wasn’t available the last 10 games, it seems to be that is the issue more than his stellar play which we could hope to get again in 2020.
And let’s not look at the other side of things. After five seasons with the Steelers, Bud Dupree has only proven that he deserves a decent pass-rushing salary based on his 2019 production. Where was he his first four years? Weren’t many of the same people who are saying the Steelers have no choice but to keep Dupree ones who were complaining when the Steelers exercised his fifth year option? But based on one year, many believe he is now a player deserving of the franchise tag.
When it comes to all these players, I try to take a look at a little more than the past season. Out of all of them, the most concerning is Ben Roethlisberger as every player hits a point where their age catches up to them. I’m not sure that Ben is to that point yet. Right now, he has two more years on his contract and it’s hard to say what those two years are going to bring. While some say this is definitely Ben’s last contract with the Steelers if he even plays out the rest of it, I am in the camp where I would like to see what he can do in 2020 before judging what happens two years from now. The next 10 months will bring a lot of clarity to the situation.
As for James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster, I’m hoping a season with injuries and less than acceptable quarterback play is a contributing factor so let’s hit the reset button for 2020. I’m not 100% sold that either is the answer, but they are a lot closer than anything else the Steelers could feasibly do right now.
As for Stephon Tuitt, he’s a beast. Don’t anger the beast. Let the man come back and dominate.
The Bud Dupree situation is tricky. I’d like to see the Steelers keep him mainly to have as little change possible on the defensive side of the ball which made such big strides in 2019. I’m also not set on the Steelers breaking the bank for a player that only produced for one season. Hopefully the two can find a happy medium.
Are there other players from the 2019 season who fans are ready to move on from based on one season of production? Sure. But these are the five that I have decided to outline because I’ve seen concerns dealing with them the most.
To reiterate once more: It’s not that these concerns are not valid. They are definitely concerns. But there are factors involved other than just this past season in order to make decisions on personnel and whether or not they should be discarded or upgraded. As for me, I’m going to continue to pull for each of these players to be the best they can be as long as they’re wearing the black and gold.