Steelers feel sense of urgency with Big Ben window closing
When Ben Roethlisberger dropped his bombshell retirement talk last January on 937 The Fan, many in the Steelers organization just kind of brushed it off as ‘Big Ben being Big Ben.’
Several months later the Steelers have a different view after a number of discussions with Roethlisberger.Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"
The Steelers belief that the window with Big Ben is closing can be seen with their increased activity to bolster the roster in recent weeks.
Pittsburgh always takes care of their own and that continued Saturday by dishing out a $61 million contract to Stephon Tuitt, but as Roethlisberger has entered mid-30’s, the Steelers have been in the past as being too conservative in not adding enough outside talent.
That changed in August.
Pittsburgh had a desperate need to add a No. 1 cornerback and landed Joe Haden with 3 year, $27 million contract that includes $7 million guaranteed. Even if the 2014 version of Joe Haden doesn’t come back due to the groin injuries, the Steelers have made their defense much more versatile with this type of addition to give the opposition different looks.
With it becoming obvious that the Steelers didn’t have a No. 1 tight end on the roster, they go out and trade for Vance McDonald who has an out in his contract after this season, but still has a pretty steep financial commitment throughout 2021 if the Steelers don’t release him after this season.
With more concerns about their secondary, they made another addition in adding a starting caliber safety in J.J. Wilcox.
In the past the thinking might have been, ‘we can get by with a Ross Cockrell and Robert Golden.
That thinking has rightfully been thrown out for the 2017 season as it should be.
Entering the NFL season opener Thursday night between the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs, every argument can be made that the Steelers are the second most talented club in the AFC and that was before the additions of Haden, McDonald and Wilcox.
This was a management group finally taking some gambles to try to close the gap and father time can hit a quarterback as great as Tom Brady at anytime.
It was only one week but Brady sure looked old vs the Chiefs.
Things to Watch
1. Will the Steelers avoid making things more difficult then they should be? Last season they were 4-5 after nine games and were comeback wins against Cincinnati and Baltimore from missing the playoffs. Pittsburgh is head and shoulders above the rest of the field in the AFC North. Now they need to go out and prove it.
2. Big Ben on the road
Pittsburgh has a very favorable schedule to open the season with a great advantage at quarterback in many of the matchups. But, Roethlisberger’s negative play on the road is something that has become a great concern. Will that trend change in 17? Whether it does or not will likely dictate the Steelers getting home field or not.
3. Will Killer B’s reach max peak together?
The gang is back together.
Big Ben, Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant and Le’Veon.
It’s been over 600 days since the four have been on the field together for a meaningful game. This is an offense that should be Atlanta Falcons elite based on what you see on paper.
Can it all come together and how quickly?
There’s no excuses for this bunch and the addition of Vance McDonald to stretch the field adds another element they didn’t have a few weeks ago with the loss of Ladarius Green.
4. Outside Linebacker Situation
The Steelers feel great about their front-seven. A healthy Cam Heyward and deeper D-line could go a long ways to a much improved unit and the Steelers see great potential at the outside backers with Bud Dupree and T.J. Watt.
While it remains to be seen how impactful Watt will be early on as the Steelers are throwing him right into the fire, if this group is going to have the impact Steelers coaches believe it can, Bud Dupree needs to find a way to stay healthy.
Dupree won’t play vs Cleveland.
5. Antonio Brown
He got the big contract but A.B. is all about the stats and his poor behavior when he didn’t get the ball last year still happened.
There’s more weapons this season that can take the ball out of Brown’s hands.
Will he avoid being a distraction that drove Roethlisberger nuts last season?
With the egos in that room, likely not.