It wasn’t that long ago when the Pittsburgh Steelers had the makings of a dynasty. Ben Roethlisberger led a cast of superstars on offense that seemed to be set to dominate the league for years to come. All-Pro talents like Antonio Brown, and Le’Veon Bell were just entering their prime. The team had several young talents seemingly on their way up. Draft picks like Ryan Shazier, Bud Dupree, and Martavis Bryant all had immense promise. All that changed in a matter of three years. Drugs, injuries and contract squabbles are all reasons why the Steelers have a one year window left to win a Super Bowl with Ben Roethlisberger ass their quarterback.
It hasn’t taken Kevin Colbert long to pivot into a new cast of talented characters on offense. Just as fast as Bell and Brown went out the door, players like Ju Ju Smith Schuster, Diontae Johnson, and James Conner are here to take over. Add in rookies Chase Claypool, and Anthony McFarland and this offense could very well be as good as ever.
The problem on this side of the ball of course is the age of Ben Roethlisberger. How many more years does a 36 year old quarterback have realistically have in the tank? Not too mention one who is coming off major elbow surgery. All the feedback from training camp has Roethlisberger looking fantastic. There’s even talk of some return of arm strength after surgery. https://www.post-gazette.com/sports/steelers/2020/08/27/pittsburgh-steelers-ben-roethlisberger-training-camp-randy-fichtner/stories/202008270185
In theory, as long as Ben Roethlisberger stays healthy, the Super Bowl window will be open. There are other very important factors that will affect this however.
The rebuilding process for this defense has been going on for ten years now. Finally however, the job is complete. The 2020 Steelers defense stands to be the best group since their last Super Bowl appearance in 2010. This is a stacked unit with no glaring weakness at any position.
Now the bad news. Free agency will undoubtedly put a damper on this squad come 2021. Key players like Bud Dupree and Cam Heyward have their contacts running out after this season. With the cap situation what it is for the Steelers, neither is likely to be resigned. Cam Heyward is playing his last season in Pittsburgh
The potential Cam Heyward loss is of particular concern. The team already lost standout lineman Javon Hargrave to free agency. That would leave the team with only the great, but injury prone Stephon Tuitt left from what was one of the better three man lines in the league. A defense without Heyward and Dupree, and without the cap space to properly replace them would mean a huge setback for this unit.
The salary cap situation going forward for the Pittsburgh Steelers is grim to say the least. The Covid 19 virus has all but assured the cap will at best stay the same for 2021. The league’s latest proposal would be to lower the cap to $175 million in 2021. That would put the Steelers 13 million over the cap without any of their pending free agents. Yes that’s without Heyward, Dupree, Smith-Schuster, Conner or Villanueva to name a few. Of course there’s always wiggle room in any cap situation. The reality is however that a good chunk of that free agent class will not return to the team.
So here we are. Pittsburgh is a franchise with an aging quarterback, and serious cap issues in the very near future. If a Super Bowl is ever going to happen with Big Ben at the helm, this is the year it has to happen. The talent is certainly there, and with a little luck Steelers might just pull it off.