Pittsburgh Steelers need a perfect offseason to strengthen and not have to rebuild

Pittsburgh will have to resolve the situation of its quarterback, offensive line; a smart offseason is pressing

PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh Steelers have entered uncharted territory this offseason.

It’s not just that the team has the starting quarterback in question for the first time in nearly two decades after the retirement of Ben Roethlisbergeris that the Steelers are on the verge of a rebuilding season – and the Steelers They don’t do rebuilds.

The team hadn’t had a losing season since 2003, and last in its division since 1988.

To avoid breaking those streaks in a division that features the Super Bowl runner-up Cincinnati Bengals, the 2019 MVP in Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens, and the best running game on the Cleveland Browns, the next four months will largely determine the direction of the 2022 Steelers, beginning with free agency in March.

“[Nosotros] we never went in with that rebuilding plan,” outgoing general manager Kevin Colbert. “The emphasis of Art [Rooney II] every year is competing for a championship, and I don’t think that will ever change.”

But the Steelers are at a crossroads. They have pieces of a championship team with players like the current Defensive Player of the Year T. J. Wattsafety Minkah Fitzpatrickdefensive lineman Cam Heywardwide receiver Diontae Johnson and the corridor Najee Harris. But they also have significant holes in the squad and need fresh ideas to get attack and defense back on track.

Simply to compete in the AFC Northnot to mention to win another superbowlthe to-do list Steelers it’s a long one: find a successor to Roethlisberger, revamp the offensive line, improve inside linebackers, shore up the defensive line, add a role model at cornerback — just to name a few. There’s also a long-term contract to sign with Fitzpatrick and whether Johnson has earned one, too.

“I don’t know if we ever have to rebuild,” Watt said on a podcast from Associated Press from the Super bowl. “That’s never the way I see things.”

“I think we have more than enough talent in this roster. We have great coaches to be able to win a lot of games. I think last year we won a decent amount of games (9-7) and were able to get into the playoffs. Every year, you’re trying to get into the playoffs and anything can happen. … We’ll see what happens with the quarterback position, we trust the front office to be able to bring in a guy that can win us some games. I’m going to do everything that’s in my hand to take care of things on the defensive side of the ball.

The Steelers are projected to have at least $33 million in cap space, with the potential to find more space through restructurings and releases, but Colbert said he doesn’t expect the additional space to change the team’s free-agent mindset.

“I never see us as that aggressive, top-of-the-line team in free agency,” Colbert said. “We never have been, and I don’t see that changing.”

“But I can’t say I wouldn’t. I hate to say that because I’m saying two different things, but traditionally, we haven’t been because we haven’t had that headroom.”

There is also the reality that Steelers they are teetering on the brink of a rebuild largely because of moves made – and not made – in the past year. A combination of a salary cap reduced by the COVID-19 and the Steelers’ way of doing business put the team well over the cap to start the 2021 offseason. Through restructurings and releases, the team gained some breathing room, but still had relatively uneventful free agency. The Steelers signed outside linebacker Melvin Ingram and guard Trai Turner to low-cost one-year deals late in free agency and added offensive tackle Joe Haeg on a two-year contract. The Steelers also managed to bring back some of their own, like cornerback Cam Suttonthe receptor Ju Ju Smith-Schusterdefensive end Chris Wormley and defensive tackle Tyson Alualu.

But not all of those moves paid off, and injuries took their toll. Alualu and Smith-Schuster were injured for most of the season. The offensive tackle Zach Banner, who appeared to have a chance at starting tackle, never started a game after a lengthy recovery from a torn ACL. And while they added players at needy positions like cornerback and offensive guard, the Steelers also released cornerback Steve Nelson to save cap space, and cut the veteran guard. David DeCastro due to a nagging ankle injury. Center Maurkice Pouncey retired and the Steelers did not retain the guard Matt Feilerto offensive tackle Alexander Villanueva nor the versatile defensive back mike hilton in free agency.

“We knew last year’s free agency class was important, and we had a lot of unique players – good ones – coming to the end of their contracts,” Colbert recalled. “And then they hit us with the reduced salary caps and it really put us up against the wall. And then we had Maurkice Pouncey retreating, David DeCastro deciding that maybe because of some medical stuff he was going to step aside as well.”

“And so we got into it. We had Matt Feiler and Alejandro, who were UFAs and we didn’t know what their market was going to be, and we knew we were in a tough spot. So we tried to do what we could from an agency standpoint. free, which was limited until later, when some things were fitted with reduced contracts and different ways of structuring them to make them affordable.”

With the departure of four starters from the offensive line, the Steelers tried to reload with the draft and discount replacements in free agency. It didn’t work. Roethlisberger was sacked 38 times — the most since 2013 — and the running game was fourth-worst in the league despite the addition of a first-round running back in Harris.

On Monday, Colbert admitted the team probably should have signed an additional offensive lineman in 2021.

“We knew the offensive line was going to be young,” Colbert acknowledged. “If I have any regrets, it’s probably not adding another veteran, an affordable veteran, that maybe could have eased the growth time for that group, but we knew it was going to be a tough year.”

The Steelers also haven’t recruited or added a significant quarterback option in the past two years, despite all signs pointing to the end of Roethlisberger’s career. They added the former first round Dwayne Haskins in 2021, but failed to even win the second quarterback job over Mason Rudolf. Now, the Steelers will have to find Roethlisberger’s replacement in either Rudolph or Haskins, via a below-average quarterback draft class or a bridging solution in free agency or a trade. Holes in the offensive line and the team’s historic hesitation to part with valuable draft capital make it unlikely the team will be able to trade for a big-name quarterback like Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson.

The 2022 season is critical for the team to navigate the epost-Roethlisberger ra. After what Terry Bradshaw retired after the 1983 season, the Steelers they had seven losing seasons until they drafted Roethlisberger in 2004. They also missed the playoffs four years in a row, from 1985-88. Since drafting Roethlisberger, the Steelers have only missed the playoffs six times.

To maintain the standard set over the past two decades, the Steelers must walk the tightrope of a perfect offseason, finding a future franchise quarterback and adding key pieces around him. Otherwise, the team won’t be able to prevent a rebuild this time.

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Pittsburgh Steelers need a perfect offseason to strengthen and not have to rebuild