Pittsburgh Steelers: A pleasant reminder to understand what’s left earlier than it is gone

As the NFL training camps begin – and the preseason begins in Canton, Ohio – the excitement and realization that football is only weeks away is certainly the height of the excitement.

Fantasy football players, sports bettors, and armchair GMs alike are starting to move into football mode. Every Sunday morning is like a Christmas morning. The crisp fall air, the morning coffee that ran to Starbucks in your favorite NFL team jersey, and your team’s anthem blown on the way there. There are only 17 game days a year. They are treated like kings as they should be.

The Steelers are breaking new ground in 2021. (NOTE: If you could link my previous story there that would be AWESOME!)

It is almost certain that this will be the final chapter in Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s Steeler career. Hopefully he won’t play in a different jersey next year and will happily ride into the sunset with everything he’s done in his time with Pittsburgh.

A current legacy is not recognizable. Sure, either Mason Rudolph or Dwayne Haskins could be that guy. We haven’t seen enough of either player to make that assumption. The point is, franchise quarterbacks don’t grow on trees. If you have one, you will be successful.

Because of this, given the landscape of the AFC North’s quarterbacks, it is conceivable that the Pittsburgh Steelers could be a bottom-feeder in the division they have dominated so many times over the past two decades. Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson are fast approaching their prime. Joe Burrow will return from a cruciate ligament injury and, when fully healthy, will begin his promotion to the top young quarterbacks in the league.

It won’t be an easy solution. Yes, Aaron Rodgers will become a free agent after this season and has already been linked to the Steelers. It makes a lot of sense. But if he’s not the answer next season, the Steelers would have to be very bad to get a good enough draft pick to bring in a young quarterback. I just can’t see that.

On the plus side, the defense will still be successful this year. The Steelers are reportedly working to sign TJ Watts for an extension. He is well paid. Even quarterback money, probably. Since Roethlisberger will go off the books next season, they can afford this contract.

However, if you sign Watts with a Monster Expansion, you’ll have less money to keep looking elsewhere.

The offensive line is full of potential this season. But it really is. Until it proves that it can perform satisfactorily, they will have their skeptics. In just a few short seasons, we’ve seen one of the finest units in football decimated by injuries, failures, and players who, through excellent play, turned out to be beyond the reach of the Steelers. In this regard, they are back in first place.

And let’s not forget Mike Tomlin.

The esteemed head coach is entering his 14th season with Pittsburgh. You have never set a loss record under his guidance. That’s crazy. While they may not have made the playoffs every season and have been hampered by the Tom Brady Show during that period, Tomlin kept them competitive for 14 years without losing space. I don’t care who you are, it takes someone special. This is especially the case if you haven’t had the world championship-level success commonly associated with such tenure in sport.

Who says Tomlin, 49, won’t retire after Roethlisberger’s departure? He has already indicated that he doesn’t want to do this forever. Maybe he won’t be interested in grooming the next Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback. The job is his for as long as he wants it. That is made clear. Any Steelers team without Tomlin’s guidance won’t be a better team because of that.

So while you’re on your couch looking for the Steelers to mop the floor with their opponent on game day, take a second to soak up and appreciate what we’ve seen over the past 15 years. Since 2002, when the Patriots dynasty began, only three teams – Pittsburgh, the New York Giants, and Tampa Bay – can claim to have won multiple titles during the Brady era. Hell, even Tampa used Brady to win their last one. So since 2002 only two teams without Brady have won multiple titles. The Steelers are one of them.

Perhaps the last few years have not gone according to plan. They certainly had more than enough talent in a few seasons to make it deeper into the playoffs than they did. But that happens to everyone.

Appreciate Roethlisberger, Tomlin, and the Steelers in general as they try one more time to break through and win a third title together. Because the chances are very good that things could go down in the next season.

Cody Flavell is a contributor to AllSteelers. Follow Cody on Twitter @LetsTalkPIT and AllSteelers @si_steelers.

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