Oh Steeler Nation. Close but no cigar
Result: Missed Playoffs
2019 Regular season record: 8-8
2019 Scoring Offensive Rank: 27th 18.1 PPG
2019 Scoring Defensive Rank: 5th 18.9 PPG
2020 Draft First Round Pick: None (Traded to Dolphins)
Coach: Mike Tomlin
The Offseason Scenario:
I’ll be frank.
Despite a season that ended with a thud after a frantic push for a wildcard spot, I believe that Mike Tomlin was the Coach of the Year in the NFL last season.
Yes, John Harbaugh was deserving in Baltimore, but Tomlin getting this team to 8-8 with the departure of both Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, then the injuries to James Conner, which held him out of six contests, and Ben Roethlisberger, who only played until week two, was flat out remarkable. The defense was among the top units in the league, and they managed to keep Pittsburgh in games and pull off more than a few surprises. A lot of the credit for that can be laid at feet of Tomlin, who saw that Miami was woefully misusing Minkah Fitzpatrick and went out to get the versatile safety.
So, the defense is good/great, and assuming Big Ben is back, can they fuel up that offense to contend? Does Big Ben even want to come back? I mean the dude is thirty-eight, coming off an injury-shortened season and he talked about retirement four years ago. Indications are that he’s coming back, and for Steeler fans, that’s a great thing.
I know, many football fans might not have heard much about the 2019 Steelers aside from their brawl with Cleveland that ended with Myles Garrett’s helmet assault on Steelers third string QB Mason Rudolph, but this was a team that showed a ton of heart in 2019, and if they can find a few pieces of offense, they can contend in 2020.
Free Agent Frenzy:
Sounds easy, right? Just bring in a few guys to tool up an offense that just lacked a spark, right?
Why, you might ask. Because the Steelers are among the most cash-strapped teams in the entire league, ranking thirty-first with a mere $1.5 million to spend before they run into the salary cap. The Steelers already brought in former Chargers fullback Derek Watt (yes, the middle Watt, brother of T.J. and J.J.), and they might not have much else to work with. It seems like a tight end would be a godsend for Big Ben, as the Steelers had almost no production from the position, but I’m not sure there’s a whole not of bargain basement pass-catching tight ends out there. Maybe they can find one in the draft…
Seriously Premature Draft Hunches:
More bad news here. Sorry.
The Steelers are without their first-round selection, a result of the Minkah Fitzpatrick trade. Let me be clear here. I think that the Steelers won that trade, handily. But it, among other roster moves in 2019, have left the Steelers with few options to develop the roster with young talent.
Their first selection, barring any trade mayhem, will come at number 49, midway through the second round. At that point, it’s more likely that the Steelers will be looking for size along the offensive line, but with all the depth at WR this draft, it’s possible that a highly graded TE will fall in their laps. Hope springs eternal.
For more thoughts and opinions from Tom, check out his author page.