Is the Steelers’ Championship Window Closed?

Is the Steelers’ Championship Window Closed?

The Pittsburgh Steelers last season didn’t have the year that they had hoped for. By now you probably know the story of how dramatic the locker-room was over the course of the season. It began with superstar HB Le’veon Bell deciding to sit out the entire 2018-19 season over the talks of his contract. Then it was WR Antonio Brown always causing a storm whether it be arguments with QB Ben Roethlisberger, or going crazy on twitter, or not reporting for practice and sitting out of a must win game in Week 17. All of these factored into the Steelers posting a 9-6-1 record and missing the post-season for the first time since 2013.

The off-season that followed was to be expected. Bell left for a bigger contract that ended up landing him a job with the New York Jets. Antonio Brown was traded to the Oakland Raiders, which was also a interesting debacle. Originally Brown was reportedly traded to the Buffalo Bills. Soon after it was reported Brown commented “fake news” on NFL’s instagram post announcing the trade. What followed was the trade being void and he was then shipped to the Oakland Raiders for a third and a fifth round selection. Which most viewed as a steal for the Raiders as he was projected to be worth at least a first round draft selection.

Image result for Steelers AP Photo
Photo Source : Keith Srakocic / AP Photo

What did they do to compensate for such losses? Well, they still have HB James Conner, who successfully emerged as a top tier running back last season, as well as WR Juju Smith-Schuster, who has become a fan favorite and an above average receiver. During free agency they went out and grabbed players like WRs Donte Moncrief and Eli Rogers to serve as depth and nice alternatives for the aging Ben Roethlisberger. In the draft they didn’t exactly make the offense a top priority selecting LB Devin Bush in the first round after trading up with the Denver Broncos, hopefully to fill in for the injured Ryan Shazier who won’t play again in the 2019-20 campaign dealing with that devastating spine injury he suffered two seasons ago.

Their division isn’t getting any easier though. Unlike the Steelers who soon, will need a rebuild, the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens are getting ready to go full throttle at a deep playoff run. Last season the Ravens won the division for the first time since the 2012-13 season on the backs of that elite defense and newfound offensive identity with QB Lamar Jackson. Although being bounced in the wild card losing to the Los Angeles Chargers, their future is still bright with QB Joe Flacco out in Denver and players like WR Marquise Brown and HB Mark Ingram coming to join Jackson. They did lose pieces of the defense like OLB Terell Suggs leaving for Arizona and ILB CJ Mosely going to the New York Jets. But they’ve had young players developing to take their spots like Matthew Judon and Jaylon Ferguson.

Image result for Lamar Jackson Browns AP Photo
Photo Source : GoogleNews.com

The Cleveland Browns have also been building up and this season is looking exactly like Browns fans have been hoping for after years of disappointing seasons. Early in the off-season they made a blockbuster trade for superstar WR Odell Beckham from the New York Giants for S Jabrill Peppers, pick 17 (which was used to select DT Dexter Lawrence) and a third round selection (used to select LB Oshane Ximines). They also signed HB Kareem Hunt even with his controversy surrounding a hotel video camera catching him kicking a woman. They have now built one of the most explosive offenses with QB Baker Mayfield heading into his second year of NFL competition and TE David Njoku coming into his own. Depending on how the defense looks, they could give the Ravens and the Steelers a run for their money at the AFC North this season.

That said, if the division wasn’t hard enough, the rest of the AFC has great teams that Pittsburgh has to worry about. The Kansas City Chiefs are still a force to be reckoned with as Patrick Mahomes is entering his second year as the starting quarterback for the Chiefs after winning MVP last year with 50 touchdowns as well as well as adding S Tyrann Mathieu and DE Frank Clark. They also addressed the offense in the draft selecting speedy WR Mecole Hardman who looks to fill in for Tyreek Hill if he is to miss time due to his legal troubles.

In the same AFC West divison, we have the Los Angeles Chargers who had an excellent defensive draft selecting DT Jerry Tillery and S Nasir Adderly, both of whom were considered one of the top players of their respected position. They still have the tools offensively and will be getting TE Hunter Henry back after tearing his ACL in mini-camp last year. They also added a veteran presence to the LB core in Thomas Davis after he was released from the Panthers. The Chargers are still very talented and will be competing with the Chiefs for that division as well as competing for the top of the AFC.

Image result for Tom Brady Ben Roethlisberger AP Photo
Photo Source : Winslow Townson / AP Image for Panini

The last team I’ll go in depth with is the New England Patriots. They’ve always been a thorn in the Steelers side since QB Tom Brady’s emergence. Whether it’s in Heinz Field or Gillette the Patriots just seem to have their number most of the time as the Steelers have a 3-11 record against the Patriots since Brady has been the QB. With Bill Belichick at the helm, it seems they’ll always be a winning team. Even with losing TE Rob Gronkowski the Patriots are solidly coming off of their sixth super bowl championship. The Steelers meet the Patriots in Gillette Stadium week one on Sunday Night Football. They look to build a winning streak of sorts after taking the win in their last meeting 17-10 last year.

With all that said, the mountain is steeper than ever. Their offensive core is either gone or aging drastically. After last season Ben Roethlisberger led the league in interceptions thrown and showed serious signs of regression, and it doesn’t look like he’ll be returning to elite form. Without a sure-fire elite WR to throw to, offensively this team just doesn’t look great.

Image result for Devin Bush Steelers AP Photo
Photo Source : GoogleNews.com

Defensively the core is still young. The development of  ILB Devin Bush will be critical. The secondary lacks solidity and raises a ton of questions. The defensive line is still as fantastic as ever with Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt as well as pass rushers TJ Watt and Bud Dupree. Still though, I don’t think that it covers up the blatant woes the offense seems to have.

In all honestly, it’s probably time to say that the window is closed for a championship. The “Killer B’s” are broken up and Roethlisberger is left without the elite supporting cast he used to have. I just can’t see Pittsburgh keeping up with the likes of Cleveland and Baltimore for the AFC North division, never mind teams like Kansas City, Los Angeles or New England.

Photo Source : Don Wright / AP Photo

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One thought on “Is the Steelers’ Championship Window Closed?

  1. Man all you said is only a guess 1) the browns look good on paper 2) these Ravens are now been seen in there playing sets teams are ready for Jackson 3) kc got more problem finding that same win past as last season.4) every one are so quick to say they the Steelers can’t win and they are finish really just wait for the season to start and talk . Right now you and everyone else in sports or guessing. Fans know you done care about pittburgh andyou all love everyone else .nuff said

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