Five Smoldering Questions on the Pittsburgh Steelers: Week 1


By Hombre de Acero

Well, fellow citizens of Steelers Nation, the 2017 season is almost here. By the time the Pittsburgh Steelers kick off against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, 232 days will have passed since their (latest) defeat at the hands of the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship.

In that time, Ben Roethlisberger has mused about retirement, Antonio Brown has become the NFL’s highest paid wide receiver, redoubtable understudies who helped return this team to the playoffs, namely Cody Wallace and DeAngelo Williams, have seemingly begun their “Life’s Work,” and of course the Pittsburgh Steelers have lost Dan Rooney.

A lot has been done, and even more has been said, but before Pittsburgh can kickoff against Cleveland this corner of Steelers Nation still first resolve these 5 Smoldering Questions on the 2017 Steelers.

1. The suspense has ended. The first round of the Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Le’Veon Bell has ended with the franchise running back opting to play for the Steelers in 2017 instead of working at Dairy Queen! Ok, no one really expected Bell to leave 12 million dollars on the table, even if he really wants 15.

12 Million dollars is a lot of money. Not only does that make Le’Veon Bell the NFL’s highest paid running back, he’s also making 50% (by some measures) more than the next back below him. However, things get interesting when you compare Le’Veon Bell’s 2017 salary against historic salary cap averages of other franchise running backs…

….When looked at in terms of the percentage of the salary cap he’s getting, Le’Veon Bell is only making out slightly better than Barry Foster, and far less than the true great franchise running backs of the 1990’s.

What does this tell you?

2. Mike Tomlin insists that each season represents a new team, as Ricardo Mathews, Lawrence Timmons and Cobi Hamilton can attest. Yet, when the Steelers take to the field on Sunday against the Browns, they’ll likely dress Joe Haden, Vance McDonald and J.J. Wilcox, three players who weren’t even on the roster for the Steelers final preseason game, let alone with the team at St. Vincents.

The segment of the fanbase who spends every off season longing for the Steelers to be big time players in free agency couldn’t be happier. And most of the professional press seems to agree that these are good moves.

But what do you think of so many 11th hour roster shuffles from a franchise who prides itself on building from within?

3. The Steelers announced the inaugural class of their Hall of Honor by inducting 27 members. In discussing the size of the class, Bob Labriola explained that the selection committee opted for recognition over competition.

Do you agree with Labrolia, or do you think that inducting such a large class dilutes the value of getting into the Hall?

4. The Steelers are not done with their roster tweaking, as they must make one more move when they formally activate Le’Veon Bell. Friday evening, on your way home from work, you get an unrecognized call from a 412 area code. It is from Art Rooney II. He says that Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin are deadlocked over who should be the cut to make room for Bell and asks your advice.

What do you tell him?

5. What are your keys to a Seventh Steelers Super Bowl in 2017?

You all know the rules. Use a No. 2 pencil, color the little circle in completely, and feel free to read off your neighbor’s paper. What have you got, folks?


  • cold_old_steelers_fan

    I will use a 4B pencil as it is so much easier to use when trying to draw a complete picture.

    1) Several thoughts come to mind.

    How do RB’s salaries stack up as a percentage of the average player’s salary from their respective era? I suspect their salaries have dropped but looking at it this way may reduce the drop off to some extent if rosters have expanded since the 1990s.

    Capitalism may set the market price once players have finished their first contracts (to a certain extent) but could it be that the average RB’s career is so short that the free market doesn’t have time to properly adjust to their free agency and the salaries are skewed because of it. Is there a prior history of teams getting burned by signing RBs to lucrative second contracts?

    You can’t teach speed which explains why fast WRs and DBs can command a high price. Is there a perception that you can teach a RB moves and perception or that these things have a shorter shelf life and are usually used up by the time a player gets to FA?

    Maybe the GMs and coaches just don’t appreciate RBs as much.

    2) The last hour spending spree is because the clock is ticking on Ben’s career. Last season I was thinking this would be Ben’s last year and I haven’t changed my mind.

    3) There was a huge backlog of worthy players. Why wait till more of them have passed on. Honour them now.

    4) I expect that Hawkins may end up on IR if his knee hasn’t sorted itself out (putting him in danger of being Golsoned) or the PS now that the hue and cry have died down from the massive bloodletting that is the cut down to 53.

    5) Don’t lose the games you need to win.


  • 1. General managers and coaches have come to the realization that running backs have a short shelf life and you can’t have a decent team over the long run if you can’t protect the QB and wide receivers to open up the offense. It tells me that the Steelers – with other teams following their lead as usual – have decided it’s best to spread around the available money, and that means even the best running backs don’t get such a big piece of the pie that other key players go unsigned.

    2.It tells me the world has changed. Last minute roster changes are certainly not the Steelers’ cup of tea. That’s not the stability the team holds dear. But injuries and two retirements made it clear there were serious needs that needed to be addressed. The single big cutdown day – from 90 to 53 – was a new development this year, and nobody played it better than the Steelers. They needed more help in the secondary than most of us knew (they downplayed the seriousness of Dangerfield’s injury), and were able to get Wilcox, after picking up Haden earlier in the week. Last minute major roster changes aren’t the way they prefer to do business, but Colbert and Tomlin live in the real world. And, from now on, National Turk Day is going to be just like it was this year, with big names suddenly becoming available the weekend before the season opener for those willing to eat big contracts. The world has changed.

    3.I absolutely agree that they were right to include all the Hall of Famers (including Kiesling). There is no reason for those who are still among us to have to wait. Some are getting up in years. My only disappointment is that they didn’t include Bill Nunn.

    4. Don’t ask me. I only work here. I’m the plumber.

    5. No critical injuries – and, when injuries do occur, no rash of injuries at a single position.

    Liked by 1 person

  • 1. Times change.

    2. Urgency + opportunity = times change.

    3. I’m not sure why we need this. With so many HOF members, we need a Hall of Honor like we need cheerleaders.

    4. Feiler.

    5. Health + defensive maturation + laser focus by BB


  • 1.Some countries honor their scientists, engineers, teachers with high salaries and parades to met nationalistic goals. We seem to be striving to be the entertainment leaders of the world. How we doing? With that out of the way, I hope Bell is able to squeeze the last dollar on the table into his pocket and the Steelers FO is able to squeeze all they can from Bell’s tank to get that 7th ring.
    2.Lottery pool got big and the Steelers had winning tickets.
    3.Good for the players.
    4.S. Johnson
    5.The new secondary needs to gel by the 9th game. No more 3rd and long giveaways.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Great questions, Hombre!

    1. I’m guessing, given all the rule changes (including the ones still to come) that running back is never again going to be such a focus of the offense. And given their short shelf life, running backs are never going to see the same sorts of paydays. This is why, from his own standpoint anyhow, it makes sense that Bell wants to be paid both as an RB and a receiver. It will be interesting to see if it happens. If it does, it won’t be on the Steelers, I’m guessing.

    2. The Ben window. And, as I argued in a post the other day, an ownership who gives their coach the breathing room to admit that “mistakes were made.” And to be fair, who would have guessed from his college record that Golson would never play a single snap for the Steelers in any sort of game in three years? Golson was a mistake, but there is no way anyone could have foreseen that.

    3. I agree that they should be inducted while they are still around to appreciate it. My sole quibble would be, why not Bill Nunn? That in my opinion was a massive mistake.

    4. IR Jerald Hawkins. He’s not likely to help you out this year anyhow, but was showing enough late in camp and the preseason that you don’t want to lose him. And he’s injured again, so there’s even a good excuse. You can cut him next September if he doesn’t look much improved in camp.

    5. A reasonable degree of health throughout the regular and post season in the Irreplaceable Ones. I leave you all to argue who those might be…


  • cold_old_steelers_fan

    You are not the first to bring up Nunn. It does seem like a huge omission.


  • 1. The salary cycle and probable life cycle for running backs don’t match, and skews unfavorably against the back. Additionally, the rules favor the passing game, further devaluing running backs. The rules also protect receivers and quarterbacks in a way that they don’t for running backs. At the end of the day the running back has become a second class citizen who will struggle getting paid.

    2. This is a short term shift involving 1) a win now moment for the Steelers that is based on the availability of Ben, and 2) a rule change that effects player availability. The landscape changes when Ben is gone and there is a new CBA. Whatever that is, expect Steelers to be on cutting edge.

    3. I agree with getting all the Hall of Famers in asap, and then work doing right with by those who haven’t been included. I am also disappointed by Nunn, but the upside might be that an enshrinement next year as the headliner of a smaller class might give him the moment in the sun that he deserves.

    4. I would say Feiler.

    5. Ben, Bell, Brown and Bryant are healthy for the playoffs.


  • 1. The game has become more of a passing game, and therefore running backs are less valuable.
    2. Management has gone all in to win the seventh while Ben is still around.
    3. I agree with roxanafirehall. I’m less in favor of honoring individuals.
    4. I’m just the accountant.
    5. No injuries/suspensions to key people. Do better on the road and against teams we should beat every day of the week.


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