Why tanking is an option Steelers should consider over final two games

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

The Pittsburgh Steelers would never intentionally tank, but here’s why they may want to reconsider for the final two games of the 2021 season. 

Let me start by saying that the Pittsburgh Steelers do not purposefully lose football games, and I don’t think this is something they would ever explore. The Rooney’s pride themselves on having one of the most prestigious franchises in all sports. However, this is something they may want to rethink over the final two games of the season.

Winning is important — even if there’s nothing on the line. It’s crucial to build a winning culture and to have players who understand that this is the ultimate goal and want nothing more. However, there are times when ‘tanking’ should be considered, and this is one of them.

Let’s face the facts: this football team just isn’t very talented. Outside of a few cornerstone players like T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Diontae Johnson, and a few others, the rest of the team is made up of replacement-level football players. Even if the Steelers were to undeservingly sneak into the playoffs this season, the only thing they would prove to do is hurt their NFL Draft stock.

Currently, the Steelers are slated to hold the 15th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Outside of moving up to the 10th overall pick for Devin Bush, Pittsburgh has been excellent when drafting in the top half of the first round under Kevin Colbert — selecting Troy Polamalu, Ben Roethlisberger, Lawrence Timmons, and Ryan Shazier over the past twenty years, via Pro Football Reference. Sadly, their bust rate increased astronomically when picking in the back half of the first.

Why tanking should be an option for Steelers

This is not a topic that any well-meaning Steelers fan wants to explore. Tanking has a very negative connotation surrounding it, as it’s typically associated with bottom-dwelling NFL franchises. However, the Steelers could soon become one of these if they don’t find some blue-chip talent that could turn this team around fast.

We have seen how great drafts can impact teams in a hurry. Take the Dallas Cowboys, for instance. Dallas struck gold on players like Micah Parsons, CeeDee Lamb, and Trevon Diggs over the past two seasons, and they are already paying dividends.

This Steelers team isn’t ready to compete for a Super Bowl in its current state, and it’s essential that they find more young players to build around. The best way of doing this is ensuring that they get a top selection — something Pittsburgh has been excellent under Kevin Colbert.

With five NFL teams just below Pittsburgh with a 7-8 record, the Steelers could get as high as the 9th overall pick if they lose each of their last two games. They haven’t had a pick this high since 2000. However, winning their final two games probably won’t get them into the playoffs, as there are six teams ahead of Pittsburgh in the AFC Wild Card race and it would take the Bengals losing both of their final two games and the Steelers winning out to win the AFC North.

Aimlessly winning their final two games could cause the Steelers to move back further into the draft and still miss the playoffs. This could be the worst-case scenario for this team.

This team is banged up with a defense that has surrendered 31 points per game over their final six contests and an offense that can’t be trusted to outscore any opponent in the NFL on any given week. The Steelers need more talent, including a franchise quarterback.

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While Art Rooney II would never allow his team to intentionally lose games, perhaps it would be wise for Tomlin to shut down some of his players for the season in an effort to get some terrific draft capital for 2022.