The Pittsburgh Steelers find themselves in quite the conundrum.
Coming off a 9-7-1 season, they say goodbye to their veteran quarterback, and usher the post-Ben Roethlisberger era to Pittsburgh. Who this quarterback will be is anyone’s guess, but I can tell you one thing — at some point the Steelers are going to need to be aggressive in some way to find their next franchise quarterback.
Some fans proclaim from the mountain tops how the Steelers should tank a season to get a high enough draft pick to select a franchise quarterback. What people don’t remember is how in 2003 the team didn’t tank, they just were a team meandering their way throughout a season with a below average quarterback, sorry Tommy Maddox.
The 6-10 finish resulted in the 11th overall draft pick in the 2004 draft, and thanks to the Cleveland Browns taking Kellen Winslow Jr. instead of Roethlisberger, the organization fell face first into a future Hall of Fame quarterback. They were lucky in every sense of the word.
That 2003 team wasn’t horrible, they had rookie Troy Polamalu, Alan Faneca, James Farrior, Joey Porter and many more of the household names which led the team to a Super Bowl victory just two years later. Yet even a 6-10 record didn’t land them in the Top 10 of the draft.
When you consider the 2022 Steelers, they are a team who is more than just a quarterback away, but they are a team who will still be incredibly competitive. If Mike Tomlin has proven anything in his tenure in Pittsburgh, it is how his team will fight like hell every game. Some call this living in mediocrity, but the odds of the Steelers being near the Top 10 of any draft seems to be a long shot.
Instead, the Steelers will remain a middle-of-the-road team with a middle-of-the-road draft pick. Not conducive to getting a franchise quarterback via the draft. If the team wants to go this route to find their next quarterback, it will take them being aggressive to find their guy. Sitting back and hoping things break their way, like they did in 2004, isn’t always going to work. It might mean sending a first round pick to do it, but at some point you’ll have to sell to get your guy.
The same can be said about a free agent and/or trade acquisition. When you look at what the Denver Broncos sent to the Seattle Seahawks in the Russell Wilson trade, at some point you have to be willing to part ways with draft capital and players. Sometimes you have to go outside of your comfort zone to find a player who could deliver a championship to your franchise.
This isn’t the Steelers’ modus operandi, but if you’ve noticed anything about the NFL in recent years it is how the league is changing. Players are on the move, and it’s making a difference. The last two Super Bowl winning quarterbacks, Tom Brady and Matthew Stafford, were either acquired via free agency or trade. There are far more swings and misses with first round quarterbacks than home runs.
Franchise quarterbacks don’t grow on trees, and when you look at players who fit the bill, the Steelers are going to have to be aggressive in their attempt to land those type of players. I’m not suggesting the Steelers do this in 2022, but at some point they’ll either get lucky, again, or they’ll have to be aggressive to find the answer.
I get the pain fans feel when parting ways with first round picks. Who can forget the empty feeling of watching the 2020 NFL Draft and knowing the Steelers didn’t have a pick until Day 2? It wasn’t a good feeling, but do you know what makes me feel better? Minkah Fitzpatrick roaming the secondary.
Want to avoid another Bradshaw-to-Ben era? Sometimes you have to make things happen, and not wait for them to happen. I’m not suggesting the Steelers sell the farm for Deshaun Watson. Far from it. What I’m saying is if the Steelers want their guy, in any way, you are going to have to show the aggressiveness necessary to get him.
(Note: The Letter From the Editor column runs every Sunday during the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offseason.)