by Hombre de Acero
The Pittsburgh Steelers 2016 off season is underway, but aside from a slew of “futures contract signings” things have been pretty quiet on the South Side. And while the last edition of this column promised not to look back, circumstances have conspired transform that pledge into a little bit of a white lie. We trust that you will not object as we wrestle with these 5 Smoldering Questions on the Steelers.
1. How, if at all, does the fact that the mighty New England Patriots never led vs. the Broncos in the AFC Championship impact your assessment of the Steelers’ performance against them the previous week?
2. ESPN wrote an interesting article on how the “Manning Brothers Keep Patriots Dynasty in Check.” No argument there. However…. In the fall of 2008 yours truly took exception when Michael Wilbon, a writer whom I greatly respect, declared the Patriots and Broncos as “The best two teams of the decade,” with the beef being that Steelers, like the Colts, also had a Lombardi and several AFC Conference Championship game trips.
Since then, the Steelers, unlike Manning, have added another Lombardi (and another Lamar Hunt Trophy) but unlike the Steelers, Manning can boast of several playoff wins over the Patriots. Is the Steelers legacy tarnished by a lack of a post-season wins over the Patriots?
3. A year ago, factions in Steelers Nation were alternatively cheering or jeering Mike Tomlin’s decision to fire Dick LeBeau. In his first year as defensive coordinator, Keith Bulter has seen the Steelers drop 3 notches in yards allowed, but has improved 7 spots in points allowed, while dramatically improving the Steelers turnover and sack numbers.
Would these improvements have been possible had Dick LeBeau stayed in Pittsburgh?
4. In looking towards the Steelers 2016 off season Jim Wexell made this observation:
“For all of the positive plays made by Jarvis Jones on Sunday, I found myself wishing for Harrison to be on the field every snap of the second half. Letting him go, or not talking him into staying another year, would be a mistake by the team. But I know they want to get Jones on the full-time fast track so I have my doubts about watching Harrison play another game.”
So, assuming he wants to come back, do the benefits that James Harrison brings, on and off the field, outweigh the opportunity cost of developmental delays for Jarvis Jones and/or Bud Dupree?
5. We plan to discuss the nuts in bolts of both free agency and the draft as they become relevant, but looking at the big picture, what is the biggest off season priority for the 2016 Pittsburgh Steelers?