The Pittsburgh Steelers‘ 2020 season, which began with a lot promise, ended with an emphatic thud after Pittsburgh fell to the Cleveland Browns within the wild-card spherical. After an 11-0 begin, the Steelers misplaced 5 out of their final six video games that included Sunday evening’s 48-37 loss to their longtime division rival. After the sport, Steelers stalwarts Ben Roethlisberger and Maurkice Pouncey lingered on the bench, creating the concept that a selected period of Pittsburgh soccer has come to an finish.
Roethlisberger mentioned after Sunday’s recreation that he is not positive whether or not or not he shall be again for the 2021 season. Whereas he performed at a excessive degree for a big portion of his comeback season, Roethlisberger could be a colossal cap hit for a Pittsburgh crew that has little or no cap house coming into the offseason. If Roethlisberger returns for an 18th season, his wage must be adjusted with a purpose to deal with the crew’s different personnel wants.
Let’s assume the soon-to-be 39-year-old Roethlisberger honors the ultimate 12 months of his contract, giving the Steelers at the very least yet one more 12 months to attempt to construct a championship crew round their future Corridor of Fame quarterback. Listed below are three issues they will do that offseason that might make that dream a actuality.
Step 1: Discover Large Ben’s successor
We all know that is simpler mentioned than performed, nevertheless it’s time for the Steelers to place extra emphasis on the way forward for their quarterback place. The present frontrunner to interchange Roethlisberger is Mason Rudolph, who threw for 315 yards and two touchdowns in Pittsburgh’s two-point loss to Cleveland in Week 17. Rudolph, who will flip 25 years previous in July, is coming into the ultimate 12 months of his rookie contract. If Roethlisberger decides to retire both this offseason or the following one, Rudolph could be the heavy favourite to be Pittsburgh’s new beginning quarterback, at the very least for the quick time period. How effectively Rudolph does throughout his first season beneath middle would assist decide whether or not or not he would be the crew’s longterm salutation. If Rudolph struggles (which might seemingly result in a rocky season for Pittsburgh), the Steelers would seemingly be in place to draft a quarterback, which is what they did after taking Roethlisberger with the eleventh total decide within the 2004 draft.
Whereas Rudolph may finally substitute Roethlisberger, the Steelers ought to nonetheless take into account taking a quarterback on this 12 months’s draft. A potential possibility is Florida’s Kyle Trask, who accomplished almost 69% of his passes with 43 touchdowns and simply eight interceptions for the Gators this previous fall. The 6-foot-5, 240-pound Trask is at the moment projected as a second-round decide by CBS Sports activities, although a few of our mocks have him touchdown in Spherical 1.
Step 2: Repair the operating recreation
In Randy Fichtner’s three years as Pittsburgh’s offensive coordinator, the Steelers’ operating recreation has ranked thirty first, twenty ninth and thirty second within the league. The crew’s lack of a operating recreation was by no means extra evident than throughout the second half of the season, when defenses started solely specializing in stopping the Steelers’ quick passing recreation. The Steelers’ operating woes was a collaborate failure. Fichtner, as offensive coordinator, deserves a few of the blame. So too does Pittsburgh’s offensive line, which handled a number of accidents all through the course of the season. Starter James Conner struggled to remain wholesome, whereas backups Benny Snell and rookie Anthony McFarland averaged simply 3.3 yards per carry. Jaylen Samuels, who rushed for 142 yards again in Pittsburgh’s 2018 win over New England, had simply 9 dashing makes an attempt in 2020.
Extra creativity (or presumably a brand new philosophy) from Pittsburgh’s play-caller will certainly assist open issues up for the operating backs. The Steelers could be sensible to attempt to implement the zone dashing assault that Kyle Shanahan has mastered with the 49ers. Pittsburgh’s offensive line will certainly add some new items throughout the draft and presumably in free company. The Steelers’ line will welcome the return of Zach Banner, who suffered a torn ACL in Week 1. Banner could also be requested to interchange left sort out Alejandro Villanueva, who shouldn’t be anticipated to be again subsequent season. The Steelers may be on the lookout for a brand new middle to interchange Pouncey if the nine-time Professional Bowler decides to hold up his cleats.
Given their cap restrictions, Pittsburgh will in all probability let Conner take a look at the market. If Conner indicators elsewhere, the Steelers will seemingly discover his alternative by way of the draft. Attainable draft choices embrace the 2 beginning operating backs in Monday evening’s faculty soccer nationwide title recreation. Alabama’s Najee Harris, a 6-foot-2, 220-pound bulldozer, entered Monday evening’s recreation with 1,387 dashing yards and 24 touchdowns. Ohio State’s Trey Sermon, a graduate switch from Oklahoma, rushed for a school-record 331 yards in main the Buckeyes to a win over Northwestern within the Large 10 title recreation. The 6-foot-1 215-pound Sermon adopted that effort up with a 193-yard efficiency in Ohio State’s win over Clemson within the School Soccer Playoff semi-final. Harris is at the moment tabbed by CBS Sports activities as a second-round decide. Sermon is at the moment projected as a 3rd or fourth-round decide.
Step 3: Lock up Watt and Minkah, plus extra
Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick are two the reason why the Steelers might finally resolve to finish the Roethlisberger period. Watt, whose fifth-year possibility was picked up final spring, will obtain a brand new contract by the point the common season begins. The crew may attempt to prolong Fitzpatrick, who this season joined Watt as a first-team All-Professional. If they do not have the cap room to re-sign Fitzpatrick, the Steelers will decide up his fifth-year possibility, which might preserve him beneath contract by way of the 2022 season.
The Steelers’ ’21 cap casualties will seemingly embrace JuJu Smith-Schuster and Bud Dupree. Smith-Schuster, the crew’s chief in receptions final season, will seemingly obtain a hefty provide in free company. And whereas Dupree’s harm might restrict his provides, the percentages of him returning to Pittsburgh are nonetheless slim.
Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool will ascend because the Steelers’ high two receivers, with James Washington coming into coaching camp because the Steelers’ No. 3 receiver. An intriguing possibility to interchange Smith-Schuster is LSU’s Terrace Marshall, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound wideout who caught 23 touchdowns throughout his remaining two seasons with the Tigers. The Steelers seem to have already discovered Dupree’s backup in Alex Highsmith, a 2020 third-round decide who performed effectively in aid of Dupree throughout the remaining month of the common season. Search for the Steelers so as to add depth behind Highsmith and Watt throughout the offseason.