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Steeler Nation, Let’s Weld!

A look at the wild offseason in the Steel City

“Superficial winning” doesn’t have a dictionary definition, because it’s a phrase that not many people use, but if it had one, it’d be the Pittsburgh Steelers of the past few years. Perennial lightning rod Mike Tomlin has a 17-season streak of finishing above .500, and yet, under him, the Steelers have only a single trip to the conference championship in the past decade. Their last Lombardi was 15 years ago. While these stats don’t show it, the Steelers have still been a fairly dominant team over that same time frame. With Ben Roethlisberger at the helm, even when he was well past his prime, the Steelers were in contention almost every season.

So, what’s the issue here?

Big Ben retired a few years ago, and the Steelers drafted Pitt QB Kenny Pickett to replace him. The Pickett era in Pittsburgh was . . . less than bright. He battled injuries and competed with Mason Rudolph for snaps. But Pickett is now gone. Just a few days ago he was dealt to the Eagles for a third-round pick and a pair of seventh-rounders. Sure, he wasn’t great, but why wouldn’t he be developed?

Broncos Country, let’s ride! The voice of an older and (possibly) washed-up Russell Wilson resounds through Carnegie Hall. After being cut by the Broncos, Russell Wilson signed with the Steelers on a one-year deal worth roughly $1.21 million, near the league minimum.

Only a few days after signing the future Hall of Famer, the Steelers also traded for the Bears’ Justin Fields. This duo of dual-threat QBs could make the Steelers relevant along with the powerhouse Bengals, Ravens and arguably the Browns. (I was in no way paid by my father, who is a fan of the Cleveland Browns, to say this.) Will Russ and Fields battle it out, or will one stand aside while the other takes up the reins on a permanent basis? Only time will tell, but this is a large step forward for the Steelers, and one part of the one of the biggest offseasons they’ve seen in a long time.

In the other parts of the Steelers offseason, they poached former Ravens LB Patrick Queen in free agency. One of the most underrated linebackers in the league, Queen will pair nicely with Kwon Alexander and DPOY snub TJ Watt. Also added to the defense is safety DeShon Elliott, who will help improve this secondary, along with cornerback Donte Jackson. A solid player in Carolina, Jackson will probably make an even bigger impact than Elliott.

The only issue is that Pittsburgh acquired Jackson by trading away standout wide receiver (and extremely-similar-name haver) Diontae Johnson. That left a large hole in the offense, a gap which has been filled by Van Jefferson, who only put up 12 catches and 101 yards last year with Atlanta. However, Jefferson is still a decent enough WR to fill the gap until the Steelers draft someone like Keon Coleman or Rome Odunze, or even trade up for Marvin Harrison Jr.

The Steelers offseason has been shrouded in mystery. The additions to the defense are clearly intended to improve this already above-average unit. As for the offense, there are more questions than answers. Will Russell Wilson start or will it be Justin Fields? Regardless of who starts, will it be enough to give the team not just a winning record, but one worthy of meaningful playoff action?

Neither Wilson nor Fields haven’t looked all that stellar in the past two seasons. Maybe a coach like Mike Tomlin can help bring them back to form, but this is a tall task to accomplish. The Shield’s senior Steelers correspondent, also known as Mr. Schneider, believes that Russell Wilson will start the season, but will be benched for Fields at some point.

Of course, if Wilson does well, that throws a wrench into the mix. We won’t know how this dual-QB scenario, or any of the other changes, will work out until September.

Until then, it’s fun to speculate.

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