As Pittsburgh Steelers fans sit here today in mourning over yesterday’s loss to the Denver Broncos in the Wildcard Round of the playoffs, there should actually be a bit of inner celebration. Sure, the loss (or any loss) stings and it will definitely take some time to get over. However, when the dust settles and the offseason starts, it may be the best thing that has happened to the Steelers in some time.
Let us face it, this Steelers team was not going to make it to or win the Super Bowl. With the pre-existing injuries to QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB Rashard Mendenhall and C Maurkice Pouncey already hampering the offense, the injuries suffered yesterday would have definitely hampered any other game that would have taken place in the playoffs. Not even the “next man up” philosophy could have helped ease the loss of NT Casey Hampton, DE Brett Keisel or T Max Starks.
Yes, injuries can be over come, but these decimated the lines on both sides of the ball. Think about it, facing the New England Patriots with only three experienced defensive linemen and without two of their top five offensive linemen (with another playing out of position). It does not look good for the home team, does it? Had the Steelers pulled off the victory, fans would be ecstatic today, while the front office and coaching staff would be scouring street free agents just to fill the roster. Yes, the loss is bad, and honestly, it should have never happened, but maybe there is a silver lining.
Looking at the Steelers, there is no secret that the defense is aging and the offensive line needs an upgrade at certain positions (maybe even a tall wide receiver would help). With reinforcements needed and the roster limited to 53 players, some of those aging veterans may have played their last game with the Steelers (yes, in some cases this is a very sad day). That is why draft position this offseason will be more important than in years past. With the philosophy of taking care of their own players vice playing in unrestricted free agency, continuing to build this team via the draft is critical to the long-term success of the franchise and again picking near the bottom of the draft when replenishing the roster only makes it harder on the front office.
Fortunately for Steelers fans, the Steelers never hit rock bottom and are usually contenders, thus rebuilding this team is difficult. However, it is often overlooked that their offense has been almost seamlessly been transformed into one of the youngest units in the NFL. Now, that same attention needs focused on the defense. Some of this rebuilding has already started by drafting linebackers and defensive ends early in the draft over the past few years, and those pieces are in place any paying dividends. Now, it is building young depth that can push these young veterans that will be the task this offseason (along with the offensive line). Yes, this loss was bad, but losing yesterday and reaping the benefits in April will mean more than losing to New England, Baltimore, or worse, in the Super Bowl.
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