it wasn’t that long ago that the idea of the Pittsburgh Steelers visiting the Kansas City Chiefs on the schedule would likely be viewed as a significant hurdle at Arrowhead Stadium. The Steelers have been a tough out for the Chiefs even in Andy Reid’s era and the franchise’s long history of success has cemented that concern.
These days, however, the Steelers aren’t quite what they used to be and they face an uncertain future knowing that they must replace Ben Roethlisberger as the team’s starting quarterback. However, they also have significant needs in the trenches as well and that’s after investing some top picks in the most recent draft at what could be termed “luxury positions.”
In an effort to get to know the Steelers a bit better—and to get a read on the team’s makeup and posture going forward into the future—we reached out to our friend Tommy Jaggi, editor for FanSided and lead at Still Curtain—to tell us more about Pittsburgh’s chances this weekend and what he thinks they’ll do to replace Big Ben.
What’s the feeling about the current state of the Steelers franchise? Does it feel like a burn-out-all-down scenario or will they try to compete as they retool at QB?
The Steelers are never a team that truly rebuilds from the ground up; they reload. While I don’t always agree with this method, it has allowed them to be competitive for so many years over the past two decades. I think this will be the case once again when Ben Roethlisberger retires. Mike Tomlin has expressed that he doesn’t want to start over with a rookie quarterback. This doesn’t mean that Pittsburgh won’t draft one, but I expect them to try to make a splash move for a veteran in the 2022 offseason. They will try to retool their team in a way that opens their Super Bowl window back up for the immediate future.
Any positive vibes around any current options other than Big Ben to be the guy going forward?
I’m very confident the answer at quarterback beyond Ben is not currently on the team. Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins have had ample opportunity to prove themselves in this league and both have fallen well short of expectations. Coach Tomlin has stressed the importance of mobility at the quarterback position when addressing the media throughout the year. I can see them drafting a guy with the traits they desire, but also bringing in a veteran bridge quarterback that fits what they are looking for — perhaps a Marcus Mariota or Mitch Trubisky.
The franchise used early picks on what seemed like luxury positions in 2021. How accurate is that assessment and/or what’s the feeling about the class of 2021 at this stage?
Despite most fans being completely on board with the Najee Harris selection, the Steelers were in no position to take a running back in the first round. The offensive line hasn’t been addressed in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft in nearly a decade, and Pittsburgh has neglected “money” positions in recent years. I still think the 2021 draft class could turn out to be solid for this team. Pat Freiermuth is looking like he could be a stud at the tight end position for a long time, while Harris has the upside to be one of the better do-it-all running backs with more consistent blocking ahead of him. However, the overall outlook of this class is solid, yet unspectacular at the moment.
The Steelers are still technically alive for a playoff spot. How confident is this team with three games left?
Based on the results of Week 15, the Steelers still have a remarkably low chance of making the playoffs this year. Beating the Titans helped, but a loss against the Chiefs this week wouldn’t guarantee them a spot even if they defeated Cleveland and Baltimore in their final two games. The Steelers will likely need slip-ups from the Ravens and the Bengals in order to stand a chance this year, and losing this week will cause their playoff chances to plummet even further.