As the wide-eyed and eager group of soon-to-be rookies count down the hours until they start to hear their names called by one of 32 NFL franchises, we too can count down the hours – to the end of the mock drafts.
The end of the speculations, what-ifs, and wonderings; the rosters will take shape and the season will continue to move forward in a much more concrete fashion. The Pittsburgh Steelers will have their guys. For better or for worse.
And isn’t that the REAL dilemma? Will this season, one that will very likely be Ben Roethlisberger‘s last in the NFL, bring us the better? Or will we see even worse? The 2020 season concluded in horrific fashion with an abysmal blowout and early playoff exit at the hands of the Cleveland Browns. Despite all of the puzzling play-calling and depth chart management, Mike Tomlin was given a 3-year contract extension.
Granted, there will be plenty of things that look a lot different for this Steelers team heading into the new season – a change at offensive coordinator, painful losses on the defense, addition by subtraction on the offensive line, and (hopefully) an upgrade to the running game. But when the head coach – the same man who chose to punt on 4th and 1 instead of keep pounding momentum and go for it, the one who sat Kevin Dotson after really strong performances in favor of the struggling Matt Feiler, the one whose job is protected regardless of what happens in the postseason – remains the same and is rewarded for winning records, what does the future hold for this team?
It’s no secret the players love him. They respect him and adore him, and rightfully so. Coach Tomlin is an incredible man and leader, and he IS the best man for the job. But he can be doing a much better one. That isn’t all on him, either. When the standard and expectation is simply not going 7-9 instead of being a legitimate force making a push at another Super Bowl victory (hell, even APPEARANCE would be better)? Well, maybe that’s made him a little too comfortable. Maybe ownership has allowed him to be. And that begs the question, how seriously can we take this team? How seriously can the rest of the league take them?
This season will be telling. Art Rooney II and Kevin Colbert have made their intentions clear; they’re going all in on this like it will be Roethlisberger’s last. From all of the contract restructuring to the lack of splashy signings to whoever they end up selecting with their time on the clock tonight, their goal is to get ring number 7 with number 7 at the helm. And the onus of directing them along that path paved out by Rooney and Colbert will fall on Coach Tomlin. Will he lead them to glory at SoFi Stadium? Or will this season end much like they all have since 2009? We’ll find out soon enough. And we’ll find out what this team, from top to bottom, is willing to settle for.
We know what their floor is under Mike Tomlin. With the selections in tonight’s draft, we’ll begin to get a clearer picture for what their ceiling is.