It’s the NFL offseason, and everyone has an opinion. Whether the Steelers should have kept a player they released or released someone they decided to hold onto, or whether they looked into a certain free agent or didn’t look at a particular player, most fans have an opinion one way or the other on how the Steelers are conducting business. Of course, when it comes to the NFL draft, it happens as well. I admit, there was at least one draft pick which I thought was highly questionable. But in order to attempt to truly evaluate the decision, I had to do my best to realize what the Steelers were thinking.
Pretty much everybody who calls themselves a Steelers fan has become an armchair GM at some point. This goes from the fans, to the media, to possibly even players. Almost everyone has an opinion. If our opinions don’t agree, it’s okay. And even if our opinion is not what the Steelers do, then they have a plan otherwise. And if the Steelers do what we suggest, it doesn’t give us a reason to gloat because we are “right.”
But sometimes we do take it too far.
It is not the Steelers job to satisfy the happiness of the fan base with every move they make. The most obvious reason is because this is impossible. While many fans feel the Steelers need to upgrade their quarterback room, just as many either feel confident with the current situation or realize that any upgrade is not going to be enough to win a championship should Ben Roethlisberger not be available and should therefore spend their resources elsewhere. So regardless of the move the Steelers make, someone is not going to be happy.
What takes it too far is when fans blame the Steelers front office for being “reckless” or “stubborn” simply because they aren’t making the moves that they want to see. Are these really the attitudes which keep the Steelers in contention year after year? Or is it perhaps the Steelers front office knows so much more than Steelers Nation as a collective group could ever claim to know?
I think we all know what the real answer is to that one.
Heading into the draft each season, everyone has an idea of what they want the Steelers to do. Of course, it’s difficult to judge what the Steelers will do because if the other NFL teams knew it they would make moves in order to grab players before the Steelers. So, as fans, there’s nothing wrong with having fun and speculating who the Steelers should draft. The biggest problem is when we fall in love too much with who we think the Steelers should take and not with who they actually end up choosing.
I know a fair share of Steelers fans who really wanted the running back out of Ohio State— J.K. Dobbins. When he was available for the Steelers at pick 49, Many were giddy as they patiently waited to hear the name. But it didn’t happen. Instead, the Steelers went with Chase Claypool. Not only were those who were completely sold on Dobbins devastated when the Steelers did not take him, when he went to that putrid purple team instead, the heartache was multiplied tenfold. How could the Steelers do this to their fan base?
Once again, it’s a very simple answer: The Steelers have a plan to maximize the draft as much as possible in order to make a better team which produces more wins.
Does the team sometimes make a questionable moves that we are not sure about? Absolutely. Does this happen often during the NFL draft? Probably more than any other time. I, for one, went on record as saying if the Steelers were going to add a running back in the draft, they should do it early and make sure it is an upgrade. The last thing I felt the Steelers needed to do was waste some of their precious 2020 draft capital on a position which would just get lost in a crowded room. When the Steelers did not draft a running back on Day 2, I was fairly confident the position was not going to be addressed in this year‘s draft. To my surprise, the next pick the Steelers made was Maryland running back Anthony McFarland Jr. Needless to say, my knee-jerk reaction to the pick was not favorable. But having to ask myself what the Steelers were thinking, I started to make sense of the situation. Perhaps the Steelers felt this player was an upgrade. Or perhaps they believed it was a player bringing something different to the table. Perhaps this was the player they ultimately like the best at the position and did not reach for him early as they addressed other needs. I’m not exactly sure what it was, but the Steelers had a plan.
Just to close the book a little on McFarland, I believe he is the biggest high-risk, high-reward player they drafted. Based on his 2018 tape against Ohio State, he has the makings to be a great running back. But he could easily not pan out at all. Only time will tell.
The only thing the Steelers can do to make the entire fan base happy is to win football games. Yes, I’m sure we all know someone that would not even be happy when the Steelers win. If that’s the case, that’s the kind of person we don’t need to take much stock in their opinion. I understand if sometimes in a victory fans might not be satisfied with everything that came about. There’s a lot of times the team itself is not satisfied with a win. But a win is a reason for all the Steelers nation to be happy until they move on to the next game.
If the ultimate job in satisfying the happiness of the fan base is winning football games, then the Steelers front office has to do everything they believe possible to win games. It really doesn’t matter what we think the team needs in order to get better.
The NFL is a business and teams have to operate under the salary cap. Some things are possible, but not everything we want can happen. I didn’t think there was any way the Steelers would be able to sign Eric Ebron, but somehow they pulled it off. There are other moves that the fans would like which did not or will not happen. J.K. Dobbins did not get drafted by the Steelers. They did not sign Jameis Winston as a back-up quarterback. It didn’t happen. It’s time to move on.
Yes, it is fine to have our opinions of what the Steelers can do. It’s what makes the offseason so much fun to interact with our Steelers brethren. But we have to realize that none of us really know what needs to be done in the Steelers front office. If one of you do, I’m really looking forward to seeing your name on the short list of candidates for general manager when Kevin Colbert decides to finally hang it up.
All I’m trying to do is put things in perspective. It’s great to have our opinions. But when they don’t come to fruition, we have to realize that those employed by our fantastic franchise are doing what they ultimately believe will give the Steelers the best chance to win a championship in 2020. So whether our opinions end up being right or wrong, the best thing we can do is be civil about it, move on, and continue to cheer hard for the black and gold.