The Pittsburgh Steelers are entering a pivotal moment in the organization’s rich history. This offseason is one filled with change and uncertainty. Ben Roethlisberger has officially retired, Kevin Colbert is slated to step down as General Manager (GM) after the draft and the future of any number of free agents remains hanging in the balance.
On the bright side of things, the Steelers are equipped with more salary cap space than they’ve had in their recent history. Throw in their 2022 NFL Draft picks and the team could easily re-tool their roster to remain a competitive force in the AFC.
But for those who think all will go right with the Steelers this offseason, plenty can go wrong. What would be the worst-case scenario for the team this offseason? I hate writing it, but this is what it might look like...
What could go wrong?
Stephon Tuitt either retires, or is released
This simple fact would change the entire dynamic of the Steelers’ offseason. If Tuitt doesn’t return, suddenly the defensive line becomes a huge priority either in free agency or the draft. This would alter the other pressing needs of the team by the decision of Tuitt not returning, one way or another.
Poor roster decisions
The Steelers have the option on several players to create more salary cap space by releasing them. That doesn’t mean the team has to, or will, make those moves. If the team decides to retain players like Joe Schobert and/or Zach Banner, the team would spin it as them sticking with continuity and improving at critical positions, while the majority would view it was a decision which hurts the team in the long run.
The Steelers see the vast majority of their free agents jettison to new pastures. This would include the following players:
While the majority of the aforementioned players wouldn’t make the fan base sad to see them leave, there are names which many are hoping will return. Smith-Schuster, Edmunds, Adams and Witherspoon are all free agents fans would likely welcome back, and having them leave, for whatever reason, would put the team further behind the proverbial 8-ball.
Free Agency — Part Deux
Keeping your own free agents is one thing, but bringing in free agent players is another issue. While the Steelers under Kevin Colbert have a decent track record with the acquisition of free agent players, they certainly have their swing-and-misses too. The worst-case scenario in that regard would be the team either isn’t able to get the free agents they are targeting, see Dont’a Hightower, or they sign players who fall flat, see Donte Moncrief. If the team is going to lose players via free agency, which we know some will leave, being able to add to their roster will be key. Failing to do so could start a downward spiral Mike Tomlin and company can’t recover from.
2022 NFL Draft
Free agency is one thing, you can’t control what other teams are willing to pay players, but the draft is another beast. While many fans would say Colbert has been hitting home runs the past few seasons with draft picks who are able to play right away, a big reason why this is fact is due to the lack of depth on the roster.
Last season was a prime example. Kendrick Green, 3rd round pick, probably shouldn’t have been the starting center, but he was thrust into the position due to not having any other options at the position who the coaches deemed as viable. The same could be said about Dan Moore Jr., 4th round pick, although Moore showed he could be more of an answer than just a band-aid at the left tackle position. The two players who no one is questioning how they panned out were the team’s top two picks. Najee Harris and Pat Freiermuth showed tremendous promise and staying power with the organization, and the team needs to do the same this year.
But since we’re talking about what could go wrong, in the draft it would have the Steelers trading up to draft a quarterback. In a year where the quarterback class is anything but stellar, trading valuable draft capital, either this year or next, for a player who likely isn’t ready to play in 2022 would be a bad look. To be honest, if the Steelers even took a quarterback at pick No. 20 would also be bad for the organization. Other team needs must be addressed, and the quarterback position is one which can be bypassed in the 2022 draft.
You might be wondering where this glass-half-empty approach is coming from? I’m the eternal optimist, but it is important to recognize while things can go right with plenty of salary cap space and draft capital at the ready, things can also go south in a hurry. On top of that, I’ll be delivering what is the best-case scenario tomorrow (Sunday), so be on the lookout for that article.
As you can see, if the Steelers do have this type of offseason in 2022 it would indeed be a pivotal offseason, but for all the wrong reasons.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the start of the new league year, and the 2022 NFL Draft.