Pittsburgh Steelers: What Needs to Happen Before the 2021 Season?
After another disappointing season, the Pittsburgh Steelers will have to consider some big changes in key areas of their football team.
Steeler fans expect Super Bowls, not just NFL playoff appearances and AFC North crowns.
There were too many issues for a team that captured 12 wins in 2020 and those issues must get corrected.
Let’s break down a few things that have to get figured out before the 2021 season begins.
Head coach Mike Tomlin has one year remaining on his current contract and the Steelers could decide to move on from him after 2021.
If that’s the case, then they should start looking for his replacement now instead of waiting until the last minute.
There’s nothing wrong with keeping tabs on a few potential head-coaching candidates.
Then, there’s Ben Roethlisberger.
The 38-year-old signal-caller looked off in the final month of Pittsburgh’s season and threw four picks in their wild-card loss on Sunday night.
If the Steelers keep Big Ben in 2021, then they will absorb a $41.25 million salary-cap hit.
However, if Pitt releases or trades Roethlisberger, then they will only owe him $22.25 million.
It makes sense to just cut ties with Ben assuming another NFL team doesn’t swoop in to try and make a trade for him.
Big Ben has been fun to watch over his Steeler career, but it’s time for Pittsburgh to move on from him.
The Steelers can still win games next season, but they need to draft Ben’s successor and preferably a guy who can play right away.
I doubt Mason Rudolph is the answer at quarterback.
Re-Establish the Offense
As much as I’ve enjoyed the story of James Conner, Pittsburgh needs to find a new running back.
Some say the black and gold will select Alabama’s Najee Harris in the upcoming draft, which sounds good on paper.
Pittsburgh already has some nice backs in Benny Snell, Jr. and Anthony McFarland, but they are not considered starting backs.
It was hard to watch the Steelers run the ball in 2020 whether that’s because of the backs, o-line, or offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner.
Starting offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva, receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, and James Conner will be free agents this offseason.
With Pittsburgh trying to stay under the salary cap, it looks unlikely they will retain all three of those players.
Then, there’s the conversation surrounding center Maurkice Pouncey.
Some have said that Ben and Pouncey will keep playing as long as each of them continues to prolong their careers.
There’s speculation that the 31-year-old Pouncey is planning on retiring.
If that is the case, does that actually push Ben Roethlisberger closer to retirement as well?
It’s hard to believe the Steelers will be walking into next season without their long-time QB and center.
Polish the Defense
Pittsburgh needs to find a lock-down cornerback in the draft or in free agency.
Especially with Joe Haden and Steven Nelson hitting the open market.
The Steelers definitely need to look into signing linebacker Bud Dupree to a team-friendly deal as well.
If Pitt can add more competition for their defensive line in training camp that would be a bonus, too.
Maybe the Steelers can develop a potential successor to Cam Heyward or Tyson Alualu.
Maybe Pittsburgh will discover better backups for the d-line. Backups who could replace Carlos Davis, Isaiah Buggs, or Henry Mondeaux.
Pitt has to look into re-signing Mike Hilton and Cam Sutton as well.
Oh, and did I mention Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert is only signed through this year’s draft?
Just too many questions for the Steelers to answer this offseason.