"There is more than one way to eat a Reese's."
In case any of the BTSC faithful have failed to notice a trend to my off season articles, which I highly doubt, please let me clear up any suspense. The focal point of many of my articles moving forward will be influenced by each stage of the Steelers off season timeline. They have a plethora of needs and decisions to make that will require exquisite timing and detail, each move and decision effecting the next. Every free agency acquisition impacting the Steelers 2022 NFL Draft wish list.
Art Rooney II once again reiterated that the Steelers had no intention on rebuilding in an interview with Missi Matthews last week. Obviously he is referring to accepting anything other than the Steelers standard prior to every season, meaning their goal to field a team capable of competing for a division title.
The idea might seem unattainable to some, but the 2021 Steelers were in contention until late in the season, and miraculously made the playoffs with a roster that had no business being there. The rebuild has begun, regardless of what Art Rooney ll is or isn't willing to call it.
The Cincinnati Bengals and the Los Angeles Rams are preparing to play Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium on February 13 to decide who will host the Lombardi Trophy. Both teams have built championship caliber rosters, but the manner in which each were constructed couldn't be more different. The Steelers could learn a thing or two from each actually, because there is more than one formula for success. Both the Rams and Bengals formulas have been anything but conventional.
Take the Rams for example. The Rams were in the Super Bowl just a few years ago, where they were defeated by Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. They achieved admittance to the big game thanks mainly to the offensive brilliance of head coach Sean McVay and the otherworldly impact of generational talent DT Aaron Donald. Donald is a once in a lifetime defender that is the foundation of the Rams franchise currently. He has a Mean Joe Greene type influence, both on and off the field. He has yet to hoist the Lombardi Trophy however, and his prime years aren't going to last forever. Fully realizing this fact, the Rams have went all in to win a championship. It all started since their Super Bowl loss, especially in the past couple of seasons.
Instead of focusing on the draft and free agency, the Rams have aggressively built a roster of proven performers by trading their future draft capital to attain numerous Pro Bowl talents still in their primes. It's definitely not a sustainable model to emulate, but the Rams have went all in to win now. If they do, it will all be worth the cost. If not, complete failure that will be remembered as a cautionary tale. No pressure.
The Rams traded for Jalen Ramsey, arguably the most complete cornerback in the NFL. During this season, the Rams traded for Von Miller, a pass rusher supreme and proven big game performer. This gives the Rams a superstar at each level of the defense, surrounded by a strong supporting cast. I honestly don't think they have hit their peak yet on defense. The Super Bowl would be a great place to start.
On offense, the Rams have a WR worthy of MVP consideration in Cooper Kupp, the triple crown winner. The Rams made another in season acquisition when they signed the recently released WR Odell Beckham Jr. to pair with the aforementioned Kupp. Beckham has had a career resurgence after trending in the wrong direction with the Cleveland Browns.
The most impactful move of all however was trading former starting QB Jerrod Goff to Detroit for Matthew Stafford, a prolific passer who had never experienced a playoff game with Detroit. He had never proven that he was more than a stat sheet stuffer because he had never been afforded the opportunity. He can silence any remaining critics with a Super Bowl victory in his home stadium. It's a career defining moment on the biggest stage.
The Cincinnati Bengals have to be considered one of the biggest surprise Super Bowl participants ever, and not just because of how rapidly they have ascended. They have taken the universally accepted formula for building a championship roster, and flipped it on it's head. Instead of making the offensive and defensive lines the foundation of the franchise, the Bengals started with a franchise QB and the skill positions. Bold move there, Cotton!
The Bengals had a solid RB in Joe Mixon, and a incredibly underrated possession receiver in Tyler Boyd. Then the Bengals made LSU sensation QB Joe Burrow the first overall selection of the 2020 NFL Draft, and then made the tall and talented Clemson WR Tee Higgins the 33rd selection.
After Burrow was lost for the season early in his rookie year behind a offensive line that struggled mightily to protect him, any logical prognosticators predicted that the Bengals would and should go offensive lineman with their first selection in the 2021 NFL Draft. Obviously the Bengals had other plans. Cue the Frank Sinatra song My Way.
The Bengals selected Burrow's former LSU teammate WR Ja'Marr Chase with the fifth overall pick of the 2021 draft. Burrow and Chase have a rare connection, one that the Bengals obviously thought was too good to pass up. Chase combines 4.3 speed with elite level elusiveness. He was easily offensive ROY, and should be considered a favorite for the overall award.
The Bengals have steadily been replacing franchise cancers like Vontaze Burfict and Pacman Jones with defensive winners like DE's Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard, ILB Germaine Pratt, and FS Jessie Bates lll. They even signed former Steelers slot corner Mike Hilton for good measure. The defense has improved immensely for two short years ago.
They finally replaced former HC Marvin Lewis, who too often looked like a frustrated teacher trying to corral a group of unruly preschoolers on the playground, with the talented Zach Taylor, who seems very aware that the talent on the field takes precedent. Taylor will combine with McVay for the lowest combined ages of head coaches in Super Bowl history.
Regardless of who wins the Super Bowl this season, the road to the championship for the victorious franchise was anything but routine, unique actually. The Steelers could learn a value lesson from either, or both. No risk it, no biscuit.