The Steelers have failed to build a competent team
In a similar vein as the quarterback position, this team has gone from one of the strongest roster constructions to one of the weaker ones. Gone are the days of an elite defense and a high-flying offense. Even the Killer B’s era was a letdown, but at least the focus was on building a dynamic offense that unfortunately couldn’t gel long-term.
This roster has completely fallen off in recent years. Part of that comes from the draft strategy. This isn’t completely Tomlin’s fault, as the draft was primarily handled by former GM Kevin Colbert, but he certainly had his hand in the pot.
Take a look at the last half dozen or so Colbert draft classes. The argument for building this team completely shifted. Instead of investing in highly coveted positions along the trenches, this team looked for complimentary pieces to fill immediate needs.
Najee Harris and Devin Bush stand out as examples here. Bush was a bust for a variety of reasons, but even if he was a better player, he would have needed a better front seven to actually shine. Harris has found some limited success, but he has failed to become an elite, first-round-worthy running back. In the meantime, the offensive line and defensive lines continued to regress but little to no investment was made.
Free agency was also an issue. This team for the longest time subscribed to the “build through the draft and retain your talent” mantra of roster construction. This is a good one when you are drafting and developing well. The Steelers haven’t been.
A team with a similar mantra ran into the same issue a few seasons ago. The Bengals had been a similar build of a team for the longest time, but with them constantly struggling and finally cutting bait with Dalton, they decided to acquire bigger-name free agents. Wisely, a lot of this money was spent along the trenches, although some flashier pieces were added as well. This was a key reason for the early success of Joe Burrow.
The Steelers have mostly kept to the same strategy though. While they are willing to spend a little more than in seasons past, they still aren’t going after elite names in free agency. They also have shown a willingness to part with their own, as was the case with Cam Sutton last year.
Again, roster construction isn’t only on the head coach, but a coach as tenured as Tomlin has a say in roster construction. Every facet has seemingly fallen off, and it has caused the talent on this roster to significantly fall off.