We’ve all heard it before.
The only guarantees in this life are death and taxes.
According to this line of thinking, the rest of life is filled with uncertainties. You can’t argue that but, when it comes to life in the NFL, the Pittsburgh Steelers have just embarked on an off-season filled with nothing but uncertainty.
A lot can change before training camp, and I’m not talking about small moves which might merely shape the team’s depth. I’m talking about moves which could change the overall landscape of the team.
You can’t have this article without talking about Le’Veon Bell first. What will the Steelers do? Will they try to negotiate a long-term deal, or call his bluff and franchise tag him for the second straight season? All I know is, if No. 26 leaves via free agency, there will be a gaping hole both on the depth chart and in terms of offensive production.
What about Martavis Bryant? The man who trumpeted for all to hear his desire to play elsewhere midway through the season, but has now changed his tune. After the team cleaned out their lockers following their playoff loss to the Jaguars, Bryant said he wanted to return to win a ring. The team still has control over Bryant’s contract for another season, but a trade could be in the works if another team is willing to offer enough in return. I’m not about to get into the wide receiver depth chart without Bryant should the team choose to part ways with him, because it wouldn’t be pretty.
Then there’s Ryan Shazier. The entire Steelers’ fan base feels for No. 50, and rightfully so. But the Steelers are going to have to prepare themselves as though Shazier isn’t coming back next year. This is a harsh reality, but one which must be faced. Do they try and get a free-agent linebacker to fill the void, or look in the NFL Draft? Gigantic shoes to fill, but the Steelers have to be up to the task.
The free-agent list certainly has some uncertainty around it. Players like Arthur Moats, Chris Hubbard, Sean Spence and even Fitzgerald Toussaint are all unrestricted free agents next season. Obviously, Bell is the biggest name on the team’s free-agent list, but these other players certainly have roles on this team, even though that might be strictly as depth.
Players come and go in the NFL, and Pittsburgh will have to make tough decisions on some players who were starters or played key roles, on the team. Players like Mike Mitchell, Marcus Gilbert, Ramon Foster, Robert Golden, Vance McDonald, Bud Dupree and even William Gay. All might either be in their last year with the team or perhaps unemployed before the new NFL year officially begins.
Speaking of Bud Dupree, will the team pick up his 5th year option, keeping him in Pittsburgh likely for a second contract? Fans have spoken their minds, they don’t want them to do it, but the team could see Dupree’s situation differently.
All of this and so much more likely will make this off-season one to remember — hopefully for good decisions and not ones which leave fans wondering ‘what if’. The Steelers should be contenders again in 2018, but only if they’re able to get their salary cap status right, cut some of the dead weight and make great decisions in free agency and the 2018 NFL Draft.