Don't look now, but we have officially reached the most boring part of every NFL offseason. The period of time between the last day of mini-camp and when the roster officially reports for training camp in Latrobe.
Don't get me wrong, there will still be the occasional release or fringe level signing, as Omar Khan continues to fine tune the roster whenever the opportunity presents itself, but for all intents and purposes the training camp roster is set.
Now comes the tough part for any individual tasked with creating content for a rabid fanbase and Steelers themed sites. This Steelers offseason has been an answer to prayer for any content creator, as transactions and maneuvers have been coming fast and furious, with seldom more than a day or two between breaking news reports.
That fun part of this offseason is now in the rearview mirror, and creativity is required to generate interesting and informative discussion topics. My inspiration for this article was partially provided from some recent discussion threads from my articles and podcasts with our knowledgeable community.
Why can't the Pittsburgh Steelers be a serious contender in 2023? While it's logical to believe that the Steelers are probably still a year away in their rebuilding process back to being a realistic championship contender, it's definitely not out of the realm of possibility this season. The precedent has already been set in recent seasons.
Recent Super Bowl participants have been constructed in one of two ways. They have either been aggressively assembled for immediate success, or they have been fortunate enough to catch lightening in a bottle.
The 2020 Tampa Bay Buccaneers immediately come to mind. They benefited from the once in a lifetime opportunity to sign the most accomplished winner in NFL history when Tom Brady hit the open market. The Buccaneers definitely benefited from their most unusual situation, as there were numerous proven veterans yearning to sign with Tampa's already stout supporting cast on team friendly contracts for the opportunity to play for their first Lombardi Trophy. While there were no guarantees, it was the perfect confluence of events, and they achieved their desired goal.
The 2021 Los Angeles Rams followed a similar path to their Lombardi. The Rams decided to go all in on surrounding their All World superstar Aaron Donald with a supporting cast of talent capable of winning the whole enchilada. They believed they were a quarterback away, so they traded for Matt Stafford. Stafford teamed with Cooper Kupp to form the best QB/WR connection since the vintage Big Ben/AB tandem from a few years prior. The Rams mortgaged the foreseeable future for their present, but the gamble paid off with the Trophy.
Everyone knew going in that those all or nothing scenarios were not sustainable, and that the bill would come due somewhere down the road, but they sold out to win a championship. As we all know, that will never be the Steelers style of roster building.
That's why I am more intrigued by a couple of recent Super Bowl runner-ups, and the most recent two time champions.
As I mentioned earlier, these teams have assembled championship caliber rosters through strong free agency periods and draft board manipulation. After building rosters of intriguing talent and impressive depth, each franchise has struck gold with their quarterback selections. This formula more closely resembles the Steelers old school secret of success.
The Bengals are the current example of precisely why I believe that the Steelers could shock the world and contend for the AFC North crown, and possibly more, as early as this season. Nobody in their right mind could have predicted the level of success achieved by the Bengals during the past couple of seasons. The perpetual bottom feeders finally accumulated enough early round talents for a solid supporting cast, filled in their weak spots with some frugal free agency signings, and put a proven winner in Joe Burrow behind center. They haven't quite reached the summit, but they have come pretty darn close. Truly impressive reversal of fortunes, don't you think. They have accomplished it all without any semblance of a winning culture that the Steelers already possess.
The Philadelphia Eagles constructed the most complete roster in the NFL last season, thanks in large part to the best front office in the league. The Eagles haven't been picking at the top of every round like the Bengals, but they have been putting together strong draft classes, and making plenty of shrewd moves in free agency. The Eagles drafted their own exceptional signal caller in Jaylen Hurts, then showed the savvy and patience to let him develop. Surrounded by a strong supporting cast, Hurts enjoyed a breakout MVP type season, and the Eagles came up just short in the Super Bowl. The Eagles appear set to be contenders for the foreseeable future.
For what it's worth, so do the San Francisco Forty Niners. Another championship caliber roster assembled in a very similar manner to the Eagles. Outstanding ownership and extremely talented front office, coupled with a superior head coach. This is potentially the Steelers sweet spot for assembling their next championship caliber connection.
The Kansas City Chiefs are the cream of the crop in today's NFL, and represent the level every other franchise is trying to reach. They have won two of the past four Super Bowls, even with plenty of personnel and stylistic changes as a franchise. That sustained success was possible because of the stability provided from ownership, the front office, and HC Andy Reid. Having a MVP QB in Pat Mahomes probably doesn't hurt their chances either, I would assume.
In conclusion, the Steelers have a number of successful blueprints they could choose to emulate, but I believe that the Eagles is the best option, as it most closely resembles the Steelers current situation.
I also am convinced that the Steelers completely agree with that assessment, seeing how they brought in Andy Weidl to team up with Omar Khan, forming the Steelers impressive Dynamic Duo. Early returns from this brilliant connection have been very encouraging, to say the least.
Now it's up to Kenny Pickett to catch lightening with a bottle. Or maybe it's lightening in a bottle? I am not really sure, as neither option sounds quite right, but I feel certain that my knowledge readers will get the idea.
Just win, baby!