Imagine a future Steelers team with Deshaun Watson as the starting quarterback, Jameis Winston as his backup, Sam Darnold as the third-stringer and Marcus Mariota as a member of the practice squad.
What about a defensive line consisting of Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt and...J.J. Watt?
How about a secondary that includes safety Jamal Adams playing alongside safety Minkah Fitzpatrick?
Winston and Adams were members of the Steeler fans’ wish-list for 2020, while Watt and every quarterback with an ax to grind and/or mistress in his adopted hometown who’s ready to spill the beans are on the wish-list for 2021, as in next year, as in after the playoffs, as in why is anyone worried about anything beyond the Steelers’ huge wildcard clash with the Browns this Sunday evening at Heinz Field?
That used to be a big deal, you know? The postseason? That tournament Pittsburgh missed the past two years? I remember the old days when the Steelers had a huge playoff matchup on the horizon, and everyone was too worried about making signs, songs and cakes with black and gold icing to concern themselves with anything beyond just advancing to the next round so they could make more signs, songs and black and gold cakes.
But that was before social media and the rise of the wannabe general manager. Sure, those always existed, but we usually didn’t hear from them until about a month or so before the annual NFL Draft. Now, we hear from them all the gosh darn time.
“Do you think we should flip pending free-agent JuJu Smith-Schuster to a really bad team in return for that really bad team’s 2021 first-round draft choice?” No? So we’re just supposed to let him walk for nothing?”
“Do you think we should try to bring in Deshaun Watson or Sam Darnold or Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston so we can groom him to be Ben Roethlisberger’s heir apparent? No? So you’re saying you’re okay with the Steelers having no plan to replace Big Ben?”
“Do you see the Steelers trading up to the number one spot and taking Trevor Lawrence? No? So you’re saying Mason Rudolph is the answer?”
I wish they were all make-believe/strawmen examples, but they’re really not. This is the kind of stuff people have been asking since way before the Steelers started 11-0. They kept asking these questions during Pittsburgh’s 11-0 start, and they’re even asking this stuff on the eve of the Steelers’ first postseason matchup in three seasons.
The latest example of a player Steelers’ fans are intrigued by is Watson, the Texans’ fourth-year quarterback who may or may not want to seek a trade if he’s not a major influencer in the hiring of Houston’s next head coach.
Since the world hates Roethlisberger and Steelers’ fans hate the thought of life without him, naturally, Watson has been linked to Pittsburgh.
“What would you be willing to give up in a trade for Watson?”
I’ll tell you what I’d like to give YOU for asking that question: A tall glass of shut the hell up.
For one thing, there’s no way the Steelers are going to be able to afford Watson, whose contract is even more mega than Roethlisberger’s. Also, the Steelers salary cap situation for 2021 is so precarious, they might not be able to afford 62-year old quarterback Mark Malone. Third, Watson is really good and not even the Texans are stupid enough to trade away a quarterback who would be much easier to simply build their team around, provided they get their front office in order.
Fourth, the Steelers are about to play a freaking playoff game! If they do a good job in that game, they’ll have another one to play next week. If luck continues to be on their side, they’ll have a virtual parade to participate in next month.
It’s all about now. It’s all about getting that seventh Lombardi.
What will happen after Roethlisberger retires? Who knows? Who cares? I’m sure the Steelers have something up their sleeve once No. 7 wraps his surgically repaired elbow in ice for the last time.
Let them worry about that.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go finish decorating my “The Browns is the Browns” Steelers playoff cake.