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The time is now for the Steelers to execute Plan B

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The Pittsburgh Steelers always have a plan, a process if you will, that they seldom deviate from. But in light of some recent unforeseen developments it may be time for the Steelers to think outside of the box.

NFL: AFC Divisional Playoff-Jacksonville at Pittsburgh Steelers Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the 2018 NFL league year has officially arrived and free agency is in full bloom you can be sure that spring is right around the corner. This means Steeler Nation’s season of angst has officially begun.

Rational thought gets thrown out the window.

Every player that gets signed by or traded to another team is the one who got away, that one player who would have put us over the top in our quest for another Super Bowl title. I guess it must be that grass is always greener on the other side mentality. Even more hilarious is how every comment board or Facebook post lights up whenever any player at a perceived position of need is released. Inevitably, somebody somewhere in Steeler Nation makes the comment “I just saw where (insert players name) was released, followed by the question “Do you think the Steelers should look into signing them?” You know what they say: One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

Trust me I get it. We all do that sometimes, but seriously people, every released player?

By now you think we would have learned to trust the process. The Pittsburgh Steelers have adhered to some tried and true principles for as long as many of us can remember, and have achieved exemplary results. To the tune of six Super Bowl titles to be exact.

The Steelers will build through the draft. They will develop their drafted players patiently, not exposing them to starter responsibilities till they are ready. Then they will focus on achieving familiarity and continuity as a team by attempting to sign their own players in whom they have invested both their time and money. Most of the time they only dive into the free agent pool when they need to sign a low level player to a team friendly deal.

Sounds like a good plan, and through the half way point last season it looked like the plan was coming together. Each week the team was trying to smooth out some wrinkles so they might peak around playoff time. The Steelers looked to be a team that could contend for the title, not just last season, but for the foreseeable future. But we all know life can change in an instant, and the Steelers fortunes changed drastically due to an injury, an unimaginable overturned call, and a still undecided decision.

I believe we would be singing a different tune about last season’s team if Jesse James had just caught that ball. Well, he caught it, I know. I mean not let it shift slightly in his hands when he hit the ground giving Al Riveron a chance to overturn the call, but I digress. That single overturned call completely changed the Steelers’ path to the Super Bowl, and destroyed the surging momentum the team had achieved up to that point.

Would it have really made a difference in the long run? Sadly, we will never know.

Ryan Shazier’s injury the week prior had already thrown a huge monkey wrench in the Steelers’ ability to contend. Any team would feel the impact of losing your best defensive player to a possible career ending injury, but especially a team who’s defense was built specifically around that player’s very unique skill set. How do you replace that player when there aren’t any more like him out there?

To make matters worse you now find yourself in a stare down with one of your best players over a contractual disagreement which handcuffs your ability to implement a plan to address a couple of weak spots on your defense that became painfully evident after Shazier’s injury.

So, instead of going into this offseason looking to improve team depth, and strengthen the “soft” defense, the Steelers find themselves with a couple of huge holes on defense with no clear path to fill them.

The Steelers may finally be forced to break from tradition and implement Plan B.

The truth is the Steelers just don’t have the time to wait for draft picks to develop at both the inside linebacker and safety positions. Lately they have also struggled to draft and develop edge players and defensive backfield personnel. Hopefully the new coaching additions will help alleviate this problem, but the Steelers may be forced to do two things that have been foreign to them up to this point.

First, they may be forced to trade up in the first round if there is a player they feel is capable of being an immediate starter at a position of need. Though they seldom have resorted to this measure, they have been relatively successful when forced to do so. See Troy Polamalu and Santonio Holmes for example.

Second, they may finally have to start looking at some high level talent in free agency. If you struggle to correctly evaluate and develop talent at certain positions you may be forced to bid for proven talent, like other teams seem to covet ex-Steelers wide receivers.

The Pittsburgh Steelers must be open minded to these changes in philosophy and implement them promptly. Their immediate and future success depends on their ability to do so.