The Pittsburgh Steelers have been known as a consistent winning team for quite some time. Specifically during Mike Tomlin's tenure, he has received wide praise for never having a losing season, which is an extremely impressive stat but does not truly benefit the Steelers in the long term.
While this has kept the Steelers competitive for quite some time, it has been some time since they were viewed as a legitimate Super Bowl contender. The team is 3-7 in the Playoffs since 2014, and for a team with such a storied legacy as the Steelers, this should not be cutting it. Tomlin is a great coach, and I'm not advocating moving on from him, but the team needs to see a shift this season.
Pickett Needs to take the Next Step or Bottom Out for the Steelers to Succeed in the long term
The Steelers have been getting by with mediocre to sub-par quarterback play ever since the last few years of Ben Roethlisberger's career. They have gotten by due to great coaching, and strong defense, however that can only take you so far. Once you make it to the postseason, it's extremely difficult to keep up with the top dogs who have explosive offenses.
The Steelers need to get a franchise quarterback to succeed long-term and become a perennial Super Bowl threat. While my hope of Kenny Pickett being that guy has taken a hit this year, they need to see what he is without Matt Canada, and this upcoming season should be his last chance to prove that. He does deserve this opportunity but must take significant strides this year, or else the Steelers should look in another direction.
Steelers fans should be hoping for either Pickett to develop into a true franchise quarterback, or for the team to bottom out next year because those two options are the team's best chances for long-term success. If he succeeds then great he's your guy, and if he falls flat and the team stinks, they can draft a blue chipper next season in the draft.
However, the most likely option may be running back what has happened in the past few seasons. If the team gets mediocre play from the position again and plays good enough defense to sit on the Postseason bubble yet again, they will remain at a crossroads, with little hope of getting a high enough draft selection to get their difference-maker at the most important position.
Keeping the .500 Streak Alive is not Important, returning to the Super Bowl Conversation is
Many fans get excited each year when the .500 streak stays alive, but the success of the team is ultimately the top priority. The last time the Steelers were a legitimate contender was when Big Ben was still amongst the league's best quarterbacks. And like Roethlisberger, most legitimate playoff teams are in that spot because they not only have strong rosters but also have a blue-chip quarterback, who they spent first-round draft capital on.
The Steelers made a huge mistake by bringing Matt Canada back this season because they pushed back the year of figuring out what Pickett can truly become. Had they moved on from him last year, we'd already have seen Pickett without him, and it may be clear if he was the franchise quarterback. If he wasn't then the team could've made a move to try and trade up for their next guy in this year's loaded quarterback class.
Unfortunately, this has pushed the Steelers back a year in figuring this out. They must decide on this by the end of the 2024 season. TJ Watt is a generational talent at EDGE, and the Steelers are wasting his best years without being a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
If they don't figure out the quarterback position soon, his window as an elite option will be closed, and they will have done nothing with it, just as they did during the brief window for the Killer B's.