With the 2016 season ending in anticlimactic fashion in New England, the Pittsburgh Steelers feel that they have improved enough to close the gap between them and the Patriots in 2017.
The reintroduction of Martavis Bryant, as well as this year’s very solid draft class, help make this case. It is easy to see why one would say this is the year that the Steelers have to win a Super Bowl because of key departures, their age in key spots and their cap situation.
As loaded as this team is, the departure of Lawrence Timmons and the release of Ladarius Green hurt the team on both sides of the ball. There wasn’t much depth at inside linebacker to begin with and now Vince Williams has to step up and be the guy opposite of Ryan Shazier while career special teamer Tyler Matakevich could be one of the first guys in at that spot, which isn’t an ideal scenario.
Meanwhile, Green provided an athletic target at tight end when he was healthy and Pittsburgh just doesn’t have that kind of player at that position, and that will hurt the offense regardless of all the depth at wide receiver.
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The two players in the twilight of their career, James Harrison and Ben Roethlisberger, could be considering 2017 as their last chance at a Super Bowl title. Harrison, noted Instagram workout wizard, has been effective as a pass rusher in his second stint in the Steel City. But as one of the few Steelers that can consistently generate a pass rush his ability to stay on the field in the later stages of the season is crucial, and a retirement in 2017 could be devastating to the defense.
Ben, on the other hand, also could very well retire after this season despite still being a productive quarterback at this stage of his career, and one could argue that the Steelers’ next franchise QB is not on the roster.
Also, Pittsburgh will have a lot of hard decisions to make regarding its 2018 free agents depending on how this season shakes out. As it stands now, the contracts of both Le’Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant are set to expire after this season, and it will be hard to keep both of them with the team’s other needs.
Ross Cockrell, Daniel McCullers, Daimion Stafford, and Stephon Tuitt in the same boat as well, so the Steelers are in the unenviable position of finding out who they ought to keep around in 2018 to help them stay in the hunt for a championship.
With all this in mind, 2017 is undoubtedly a make-or-break year for this current iteration of the Steelers. A lot of things are going against them, but they have enough talent and the new faces could be key role players for a team that is looking to win that elusive seventh Super Bowl.