The Steelers Offseason Guide to Relevancy

Updated: Jan 31, 2021

Since the Steelers loss to the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XLV back in 2009 the organization and everything surrounding it can be summed up with 3 words: underachievement, drama, and pain. The worst record we have had in the past 10 years is 8-8 (3 times). We soared as high as 13-3 at the end of the 2017 season and we've covered just about every record in between during this span. However all these records end in the same result, late season collapse followed by an abysmal showing in the playoffs losing to a vastly inferior team, usually in the Wild Card or Divisional round. The 2020 season was no different, in fact it was even more painful than usual thanks to an 11-0 start which quickly became a 12-4 finish followed by the usual postseason no show. A no show made even more pathetic by the fact that it was to the CLEVELAND BROWNS who hadn't made the postseason since 2002. They hadn't won a postseason game since 1995. This however would be on par with our usual postseason embarrassments of the past 10 years. Let us take a little trip down memory lane shall we.


2011 Wildcard round

Yes that is Tim Tebow and yes he was so bad at playing quarterback in the NFL that he now plays minor league baseball. Good enough however to beat the Steelers in the 2011 Wildcard game with the Denver Broncos. At least we took him to OT I guess.


2014 Wildcard round


Joe Robbins, Getty Images


ELITE. enough said


I won't include the 2015 and 2016 losses to Peyton Manning and Tom Brady because those are at least respectable.


2017 Divisional round


THE Blake Bortles. Too bad he was not even on an NFL Roster just 3 short years later.


As I said before pain. Constantly playing down to bad teams, routinely getting dominated by Tom Brady and the Patriots. I'm not even going to talk about the drama surrounding guys like Leveon Bell and Antonio Brown because that deserves it's own blog. As the universe would have it they will both be battling it out for a Super Bowl ring in SBLV while the Steelers will be once again watching from the comfort and convenience of their own homes. For 10 years the Steelers have been trapped in what I like to call no mans land. This is the area where you are too good to get a draft pick in the top 14 or so called lottery, but not good enough to be an actual SB contender. You compete for your division championship every year, make the playoffs most years, but never make it past the Conference Championship game. So on and so forth the cycle continues. How do the Steelers break this never ending cycle and rise to Super Bowl contention where they belong you ask? Heres how you do it.


Step 1: FIRE MIKE TOMLIN

John Kuntz, cleveland.com


I cannot emphasize this first step enough. Don't let the cool aviators and appearance make you think this man knows how to game plan for a 3-10 football team or a playoff game. I know what everyone is going to say: "but he's never had a losing season in his career and he's been the head coach since 2007". "He won a SB and led you to another". Three 8-8 seasons since 2010 count as losing records in my book and his last SB win was in 2008 after he took over Bill Cowher's team which had just won the SB 2 years earlier. Since that SB win in 2008 he lost his next SB in 2010 and hasn't sniffed another chance since. Despite having a hall of fame quarterback, an all-time great offense for many years, and a mostly above average defense to work with his teams have routinely underperformed and quite frankly choked when it matters most. Off the field he is completely incapable of managing personalities and a locker-room. Leveon and LeGarette Blount are caught with weed, Martavis Bryant can't stay away from the weed, AB is live-streaming post game locker-room speeches giving your next opponent bulletin material, JUJU is making Tik Tok's on your opponent's logo pregame, and your QB is hosting a weekly radio show shit talking his teammates and throwing them under the bus. Jesse James refused to come back in free agency several years ago comparing the organization to a bad season Keeping up with the Kardashians as he goes off to play in DETROIT. Think about that, this man would rather suffer a fate worse than death which is being a Detroit Lions football player (sorry Detroit fans but you know you suck) than to come back and deal with the bullshit going on in the Steelers locker-room. Now we get to the consistently terrible assistant coaching hirings. Most notably Todd Haley, Randy Fichtner, and Keith Butler. Todd Haley's tenure ended on bad terms, Fichtner only knew how to call 5 yard slants and curls, and Butler plays zone when it should be man and man when it should be zone. I know it goes against the Steelers culture to fire coaches, but that same culture has been destroyed under Tomlin's reign. The only way to move forward is to burn it all down and rise back from the ashes. Tomlin has become stagnant in Pittsburgh. He's a man seemingly stuck in his ways as the league has passed him by. I believe a change of scenery would be beneficial to both sides here.


Step 2: Big Ben's time is over

Gail Burton, AP


Look no one likes to admit the party's over, but it's time. Big Ben entered the league in 2004. He's played 17 largely quality season's and has now outlasted his 2004 classmates in Rivers and Eli Manning. If he retired today he will go down as the 7th all-time leader in passing yards, 8th in TD passes, and 6th in passes completed. He will have two SB rings on his hand and an invitation to Canton in five years. He proved he could bounce back from a career threatening elbow injury/surgery and still be productive. The issue is he's just not the same old Big Ben anymore and it's hurting the team. He has the mobility of Philip Rivers now and he throws 5 yard slants and curls at a rate that would make Drew Brees jealous. Once defenses got a read on him last year they would simply stack the line, stuff the run, and sit underneath the short routes. The offense that was averaging 28ppg in the first 11 games dropped down to 16ppg to end the year. Ben started to force throws and turned into a turnover machine (4 INTs in Wildcard game). It's time to hang up the cleats. There's only one problem, he has no incentive to do so and every incentive to come back.


Ben won't retire simply because he has too much money on the line. If he's on the roster as of 3/19 he collects the $15,000,000 bonus. If the Steelers cut him he's a $22,250,000 dead cap hit. If he comes back he's an even worse $41,250,000 cap hit. Both sides have shown mutual interest in a return, but Owner Art Rooney II has come out in recent days and said Ben will have to restructure his deal if he wishes to come back. For Ben and the organization sake I hope he realizes it's time to move on and he walks away. I fear we will not be so lucky. I know finding a replacement won't be easy. Mason Rudolph and strip club Dwayne Haskins are not the answer. Maybe we will get a shot at a guy like Stafford or a chance to sign Dak if we can rid ourselves of Ben's contract. That is if Dallas lets him walk which is highly unlikely.


Step 3: Free Agents


Here is a list of key free agents to be dealt with:

Joe Haden ---- CB ---- UFA

Bud Dupree — EDGE — UFA

Alejandro Villanueva — LT — UFA (letting him walk)

Avery Williamson — LB — UFA

Mike Hilton — CB — UFA

Matt Feiler — RT — UFA

Tyson Alualu — IDL — UFA

Zach Banner — RT — UFA

JuJu Smith-Schuster — WR — UFA

Cameron Sutton — CB — UFA

James Conner — RB — UFA


I would like to see Bud Dupree and Mike Hilton return if the price is right. Same goes for Feiler, Alualu, Banner, and Sutton. JuJu needs to be gone immediately. The production decline for JuJu has been evident since AB left town and the off field antics are beyond intolerable at this point. Of course it's been reported that Ben wants JuJu back if he comes back. On and on the cycle continues.


Step 4: Draft Well


Steelers have the 24th pick in the upcoming draft. The mock drafts are all over the place for us at the moment. I've seen us taking everyone from Mac Jones to Najee Harris to Jaycee Horn or an offensive lineman. Personally I would love to get an exciting back like Najee with this pick but that is simply not the logical thing to do. I am not sold on Mac Jones at all. He only has 1 full season of college football on his resume and he played on one of the most talented offenses in CFB history. The move in this spot I believe is an offensive lineman first, cornerback second depending on who's available. I would love to get an Olineman like Teven Jenkins out of Oklahoma State who is a solid run blocker or Liam Eichenberg out of Notre Dame. ND has turned into an offensive line factory for the NFL in recent years and I think Liam is the next one up. In the later rounds after we get our Olineman we should shore up the CB position and see what value there is left at RB or a position like TE.


Step 5: Lastly


Sarah Stier, Getty Images


Pay this man. Back up the Brinks, whatever it takes. He's been in contention for DPOY for 3 years now and he is the current favorite to win the award for this past season in which he led the league in sacks and TFL. He'll be playing under his 5th year option next season at $10.5 million, but the sooner the extension gets done the better.


The changes won't be easy, they never are, but if the Steelers are going to have any chance at breaking the cycle of mediocrity and getting out of no mans land these are the types of moves that will have to be made.