The Pittsburgh Steelers season has gone off the tracks, and the team is trending towards its first losing season in nearly two decades. This despite some savvy personnel moves in the offseason which made a lot of us remain believers in the Pittsburgh Steelers. But, as we sit here today, this team has folded like a cheap lawn chair and are playing some of the worst football I have ever seen them play. So, where did it go so wrong, and have the Steelers dug themselves an even deeper hole to climb out of obscurity?
First of all, the defining moment of this past offseason was the decision to bring back Ben Roethlisberger. From that moment on the Steelers were committed to gunning for another title before their old cowboy rode off into the sunset. But, if you recall, all the reports surrounding the situation noted there were two notable parties at work here. The group that wanted to ride with Big Ben, and the other side that was ready to go in another direction. From the moment the Steelers signed Roethlisberger to his reduced contract they made moves to try to ready the team to go on a run.
These moves included adding void years to the contracts of Roethlisberger, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Eric Ebron, Trai Turner, and Melvin Ingram, as well as restructuring the deal of Stephon Tuitt. Pushing tons of cash into the coming seasons knowing what would become of these contracts, three players on Injured Reserve (IR) and a demanded trade, the Steelers were much better off making none of these moves and just eating the remaining salary on Roethlisberger’s deal. With the retirements of Maurkice Pouncey, Vance McDonald, and the departures of Mike Hilton, David DeCastro, Steven Nelson, Matt Feiler, James Conner, and Alejandro Villanueva the Steelers probably should have seen the writing on the wall and used their assets on the future.
Another pivotal moment of the offseason was drafting Najee Harris in the first round. Drafting a running back with your first pick will always go down as a polarizing decision as you typically only see 3-5 healthy years out of the position before they fall off entirely. The Steelers made the pick with the mindset Harris would push them over the top, and while he is arguably the offense’s best player, by the time the rest of the offense catches up to his current skill level we will likely be talking about Harris on the down turn of his career. While Harris is clearly one of the best rookies in the league, the odds of it being a vanity pick that doesn't push the playoff needle is growing increasingly likely.
It now looks like the Pittsburgh Steelers delayed the inevitable rebuild a single offseason. Toiling in mediocrity for a year before actually remodeling this team. With limited draft picks and less money they would have had this year to boot, they haven't done themselves any favors. With an entire offensive line, quarterback, and most of the team’s depth being mega-issues, fixing this team will probably last more than one year anyway. So yes, the Steelers should have ripped this band aid off following the Wild Card loss to the Browns.
But what do you think? Do you wish the Steelers took a more future thinking approach to the 2021 offseason? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
For a more detailed look at this topic, take a listen to my “Live Mike” podcast below. There I detail who is to blame for the Steelers’ current issues: