There’s always so much to talk about when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers. But the inquiries surrounding the black-and-gold are definitely ever-evolving, especially this week with a retirement, assistant coaching searches and an interesting addition at quarterback. It reminds me of the biggest single for Klaus Meine and his epic German band the Scorpions, song Winds of Change. “The world is closing in. Did you ever think that we could be so close, like brothers? The future’s in the air can feel it everywhere, I’m blowing with the wind of change”. So there is surely a lot to wonder about. BTSC tries to answer some of the poignant wonderings ahead of time. Take a gander at some bold statements on this and more as we label them as fact or fiction.
Are we on point? Only time will tell.
Fans should be concerned about the signing of Dwayne Haskins
On the contrary. In fact, this is a perfect signing for the Pittsburgh Steelers. But fans are over-reacting to the deal. It’s not like they signed the former Ohio State and Washington Football Team quarterback to a long-term deal. They signed him to a futures contract. Most always, futures contracts are minimum-salary deals with little or no signing bonus. Usually players signed to futures contracts turn out to be camp bodies, But every once in a while a team strikes gold here. The Steelers definitely did when they signed Mike Hilton to a futures deal in 2017, after spending a couple of weeks on their practice squad in December of 2016. Sure the former first-round and 15th overall pick underachieved and subsequently earned a bad reputation for poor play and work ethic in our nation’s capitol. However, everybody deserves a second chance and the Steelers could be a good situation for Haskins to turn things around. They could easily cut ties with him if it doesn’t work out because it’s a futures deal. There’s really very little risk and high reward if he finds a way to revitalize his career. But the Steelers did not bring him in to be the starting quarterback. He’s not there to replace Ben Roethlisberger or Mason Rudolph in 2021. He’s there to replace Devlin Hodges and Duck was QB4 last year.
The Steelers offense line is not going to go through the long rebuild that most fans think is going to need to happen
When fans talked about the Steelers offensive line getting older, they were not incorrect. They are long-in-the-tooth at three spots. That trio consists of left tackle Alejandro Villanueva and 2020 Pro Bowlers David DeCastro at right guard along with center Maurkice Pouncey. Pouncey is said to be 50/50 regarding next season, but has a season left on his deal. I’d bet on his return, but the Steelers will most likely draft their future at the position he’s held down since 2010 in April. DeCastro was reportedly hurt last season and, with time left on his deal too, will be back. The return of these two will provide the veteran leadership for another season. But Villanueva’s contract is up and speculation has run rampant that the 32 year-old blindside protector won’t return next season to the Steelers and possibly retire. I would think that fourth-years Chuks Okorafor and Zach Banner, should he be resigned, would hold down both tackle positions with Kevin Dotson assuming right guard. With the draft bringing in new life on the line, the rebuild won’t be too extreme.
Vance McDonald’s retirement creates a huge void
Fact and Fiction
Vance McDonald was a very valuable tight end for the Pittsburgh Steelers since coming over in a trade right before the start of the 2017 regular season. Although his stats weren’t gaudy, the Vanimal was a very valuable blocking tight end as well as a reliable receiver. But because of the salary cap, a lot of people thought No. 89 was going to be a cap casualty and be released. Vance was not given a lot of targets in 2020, but with Eric Ebron being more of a receiver than a blocker, he was definitely needed. The Steelers are going to need to find a blocking specialist if they don’t think that Kevin Rader or Zach Gentry is the right player to fulfill that role. So Vance McDonald’s retirement does create a void, but the Steelers would have been the ones creating it had McDonald not stepped away.
The Steelers are not likely to hire a quarterbacks coach in 2021
The Steelers have not always had quarterback coaches. When Randy Fichtner was promoted from that particular rank of position coach in 2018, it was left vacant for two seasons. However, it proved to be a glaring mistake when Ben Roethlisberger went down with an injury in 2019 and young quarterbacks like Rudolph and Hodges could have definitely benefited from having that sort of mentor. Reports have surfaced that Matt Canada, the 2020 quarterbacks coach, is still the front runner for the offensive coordinator post. However, because of the Rooney Rule the Steelers need to interview minority candidates, but only one. We’ve seen in the past with this particular rule, that a more-suited candidate can arise because of it. That happened in 2007 when Mike Tomlin overtook Russ Grimm and Ken Whisenhunt to assume the Steelers’ top job. With Hue Jackson and Pep Hamilton in the mix now, the Steelers could be interviewing for the next QB coach as two of the three mentioned could be getting a job out of it. With Hamilton reportedly interviewing with the Tennessee Titans, I could see both Canada and Jackson wearing headsets in Pittsburgh next season. No matter who gets what, the Steelers cannot afford to have merely an office of coordinator without a quarterbacks coach.
2021 will be Ben Roethlisberger swan song with the Pittsburgh Steelers
It definitely feels like it’s going to be that way. Ben Roethlisberger is a Hall of Fame quarterback and statistically the greatest signal caller in the history of the black-and-gold. But all great careers have got to come to an end. If you were not dealing with a salary cap situation, then you could conceivably build your team around keeping No. 7 if both sides wanted to keep the party going. But Ben has essentially priced himself off of the team. If he plays in 2021 (and I fully expect him to), he’s going to count $41 million dollars against the cap. That could possibly be a quarter of the teams cap money. Ben cannot be re-signed to another deal. It just wouldn’t work. The Steelers don’t have to move on from Ben this year, even though it would save almost $20 million of a cap hit, but they can’t go on much further without greatly hindering the rest of the team.
Check out the Fact or Fiction podcast to learn even more about these topics, and their status, heading into this week’s game and listen for more on the player below.