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A Letter from the Editor: Six weeks into the offseason

A month and a half since the Steelers played their final game of the 2020 season, have we already distorted what really happened on the field?

Pittsburgh Steelers v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

As of today, Sunday, February 21, 2021, the Pittsburgh Steelers have now gone six weeks since they last took the field. It’s a brutal reminder that it’s been so long as hopes were the Steelers would play much farther into January.

I’m not sure about anyone else, but because the way the Steelers’ season ended I have not gone back to watch any games from this past year. Now that we’ve hit the six-week mark, I think I’m ready to do so again and try to look at the entire 2020 season more objectively. If not, I, like most Steelers fans, run the risk of remembering things from this past season the way I want them to be rather than the way they actually were.

It’s an easy trap to fall into once the season is over. The narrative that we buy into seems to control our thought processes more than the actual things that happened on the field. It’s basically a form of “selective recall” in our memory. It’s like the film breakdown of four plays for a quarterback where he throws incompletions and should have made a different read. But when looking at the entire game, the quarterback was 28 for 32 for 450 yards and four touchdowns in a decisive 35–10 victory. But if the person doing the breakdown wants to shape the player in a different light, they simply choose those four plays.

This is a little bit overblown, but I think the idea may getting out there. If not, there are several examples to show where we might need to go back and actually re-watch the Steelers’ season to get a better idea of how things really are.

The first example will be fairly obvious because I’ll cover both ends of the spectrum. There are those the camp that “Ben Roethlisberger is washed up” while others are “Ben is an elite quarterback.” If going back and looking at the tape over the entire 2020 season, we’ll probably find the answer to be at some point in between.

Another narrative that fans may fall back into due to not watching any games recently is constantly complaining about Terrell Edmunds. Fans got so used to saying this, even though 2020 on-field play showed evidence to the contrary. You could probably throw the name Mason Rudolph in as well to do the same type of scenario because we are more likely to remember the larger sample size in 2019 rather than his solid, yet limited, performance in 2020.

Then of course there’s the ongoing narrative that the Steelers running game is terrible.

Wait. That one’s spot on.

As you can see, there are some of these narratives that are correct. In fact, many of them are. But sometimes we do need to actually refer to the Steelers’ play on the field in order to make sure we are depicting things accurately.

I fell into the trap last season. With Week 17 fresh in my mind, I made sure I continued my full support of Benny Snell Jr. has a quality running back. Rather than look at cases where there were a lot of question marks, I just focused on the most recent game and rolled with it throughout the offseason. Come Week 1 of 2020, there was even more support for it after Snell went over 100 yards in relief of James Conner. But then the rest of the 2020 season happened, and the narrative came crashing down.

We just all need to remember that we are merely a passionate fan base wanting our Pittsburgh Steelers to win a championship every season. We all have differing opinions of how to get there, and we all have different players who we feel are quality or a liability. With no new games to watch, we just slowly go back into our previous mindset or focus on one small part of the season in order to draw conclusions. It’s why we disagree. It’s why we have differing opinions on the quarterback, the coaching staff, retaining free agents, players to sign, and which players to draft.

It has now been six weeks. The mourning period should be over for most of us Steelers’ fans and we should be prepared to look back at the various games over this past season and evaluate them objectively in order to determine what we feel is the best course of action moving forward in 2021. If only we got to be the ones making the actual decisions. Instead, we just get to have lively discussions with the fellow Steelers fans until we finally get to see them on the field again.

Now that we are six weeks into the Steelers’ offseason, here’s my challenge. Write down five (or even ten) statements about the 2020 Steelers. Then go back and re-watch the games. Look and see specifically if these statements hold true. I’m sure most of them will. But you might be surprised that a couple might not be exactly how you remember. I’m sure mine won’t hold up. Either someone who I thought had a great year I’ll see something questionable, or someone who I thought really struggled might not have been so terrible.

It’s the offseason. What else do you have to do when it comes to the Steelers? After all, it’s only six weeks down and 23.5 more to go until the Hall of Fame game.