GAMES OVER! (TIME FOR BUSINESS)
The Steeler season came to a screeching halt on Super Wild Card Weekend when they lost to the Cleveland Browns in humiliating fashion 48-37. Sure, they scored enough points to win but all the things that were problem areas during the season surfaced against a team that is closing fast in their very own division. The lack of a running game, an aging quarterback, a declining offensive line, a tired defense, poor execution and questionable coaching all came into play against the rising Browns.
An initial move to remedy the situation on offense was made when incumbent offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner was jettisoned days after the finale in favor of new hire Matt Canada. No plans have been revealed by Steeler brass for what we will see in the future, but we all know an emphasis will be on re-establishing the run. Of course some of that will depend on what players will be available to hand the ball off to next season. The main men; James Connor, Bennie Snell Jr. and Anthony McFarland are question marks for one reason or another. You can be 100% sure someone else will be in the backfield via free agency or the draft.
Could the same be said for the quarterback position? As the season ended, Ben Roethlisberger didn't look like a guy who could help engineer another 12-game win season. Bets are that he might be a break even quarterbackb at best, unless he gets the help that can take some of the pressure off of him. If Maukice Pouncey retires the offensive line will lose a savvy vet but they will gain a younger needed body. That would help. So would more sure-handed wide receivers. The best of the lot is free-agent Juju Smith-Shuster. Will the team place the transition tag on him? Is he worth it? Or will he take his talents elsewhere? I'm sure Steeler fans would hate to see him in another team's jersey. But Jacksonville, Washington, Green Bay or Baltimore might 'show him the money' he can't refuse.
The defense will undergo changes as well. Stalwarts Cam Heyward, J.J. Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick will be the front ,middle and back cornerstones and will probably get with some needed upgrades at all three levels. Returning injured starters Devon Bush and Bud DuPree would provide an instant spark upon their return, yet, one may not be back. DuPree is a free-agent. The good business news for the Steelers is that his knee injury lowered his value on the open market and any team desiring his services will be taking a chance on damaged goods. That makes him a transition tag nominee.
No matter what happens in the player and coaching ranks, all who embark on the 2021 journey for the team should be ready for a bumpy ride and here's why. The schedule will be a beast. In addition to road games at the improved Browns, Bengals and always tough Ravens, they will travel to Buffalo, Green Bay and Kansas City. Home games against Chicago, Minnesota and Tennessee will also make for tough sledding.
NEXT.....FREE AGENCY/2021 NFL DRAFT
OFFENSIVE needs.....Quarterback, runningback, offensive linemen, tight end.
There may not be wholesale changes to the offense next season, but it does need to be re-stocked.
DEFENSIVE needs......Defensive line and secondary.
AFC NORTH TRACKING: Cleveland is coming. They made it to the divisional round and were a tough out for Kansas City. Baker Mayfield has matured.
Baltimore made it to the divisional round but ran into Buffalo. The loss revealed that they may need to change their Lamar Jackson run-heavy offense.
Cincinnati hopes rest on the recovery of Joe Burrow.
For more on the Steelers on this site go to our Steel Talkin' page with Ty Miller 2.0 and Joel Edwards.