To win now, or win later; this is the constant question in today’s NFL. However as we’ve learned through recent history, there is no gray area with this. To win a championship, teams must decide to EITHER win today, OR win tomorrow. Most teams have addressed this question and have embraced their answer (see Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills, Los Angeles Rams, etc.). But this question remains unanswered in Pittsburgh and the anxiety is mounting. Where do we go from here?
The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of the most successful franchises in sports. I mean, three head coaches in 52 years, eight Super Bowl appearances, six championships, and 24 division championships all in that time frame; there is obviously something to be said for that. But, hidden in these years is the constant paradigm of “win now or win later”. More recently since Super Bowl XLV, the Steelers have seemingly been lost in this. This is evident from the multiple winning seasons, yet a 3-6 record in the playoffs. This may boil down to the fact that the Steelers simply don’t know what to do and have just been sweeping this question under the rug. From what I can see, they are sticking with the “it’s worked so far, why change it?” mentality. Well, it was just a matter of time when the Steelers were forced to change; now in the way of meeting new salary cap restrictions while navigating a pivotal free agency market and upcoming NFL Draft. The chickens are coming home to roost.
I may be pessimistic, but evidence has shown the Steelers need the “win later” answer for us. Just look at the history leading up to the 1970’s dynasty. Between 1965 and 1971, the Steelers had seven consecutive losing seasons resulting in a 25-70-3 overall record. But what followed is what Steelers fans remember; and this is what the new Steelers have to emulate in the coming seasons. What this means is, play with the cards they’re dealt. Yes, I’m saying let some expensive players walk, such as maybe Bud Dupree, James Conner, Cam Sutton, Mike Hilton, or Alejandro Villanueva, and rebuild around the young players (see T.J. Watt, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Devin Bush, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Chase Claypool) through the coming drafts. The Steelers’ drafts of 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, and 1974 provide the blueprint for this strategy and have proven to be successful. We already know our fearless field general, Ben Roethlisberger, is set to return for one final ride in 2021 at a discount. With Roethlisberger helping the young players develop in a new offense, paired with a new offensive line coming in 2021, this sets the stage for an easy transition after 2021. In Pittsburgh where winning is customary, this may be an unpopular opinion; but this is what the Steelers need to plan for in 2021.
Prepare for the Great Transition of 2021.
The Rooney’s, and all of Pittsburgh, must be ready for several “questionable” seasons ahead. There is no doubt it is going to be a tough, weird stretch. But as history has shown us, this is the formula to winning championships in Pittsburgh, and cultivating one of the most prestigious franchises in all of sports.
Here. We. Go.