By Jeremy Hritz
One of the beautiful elements of watching professional sports, especially the NFL, is that every team, any game, has the chance, the opportunity for victory. No matter the records, odds, airtight statistics, if you have 11 players lining up on offense and defense, your team has the potential to get it done.
Cue the “Any given Sunday,” cliche, though in 2021, we should probably revise that to read: Monday, Thursday, Saturday (and if you are a Steelers’ fan, even Wednesday). Cliches, while yes, are to be avoided and are annoying, are trite for a reason: they contain undeniable truths.
Following the disastrous end to the once promising Steelers season, the morale of fans worldwide was flattened and flayed, and a pessimism was nearly universally embraced, condemning the future of the Steelers as apocalyptic, destined for a 4-12 season, let alone mediocrity at 8-8. The reasons were a plenty for the purgatorial period:
- A washed-up, old quarterback who couldn’t push the ball down the field anymore.
- The absence of a running game.
- A decrepit offensive line that could only block for a quick passing game.
- A porous run defense
- An overrated head coach with subpar game-management skills
- A salary cap dumpster fire
And on and on and on and on.
There is no question there are a litter of questions surrounding the Steelers that remain unanswered, and many factors pointing to a few years as AFC North bottom-dwellers.
However, to assume that every answer to the existing questions is negative and/or has a deplorable outcome, is just as unrealistic, fallacious thinking as believing the Steelers will go 16-0 next year, win the Super Bowl, and Ben Roethlisberger wins the MVP Award.
I agree, the majority of the current evidence points to a decline in the performance of the team next year, and an 8-8 season would seem to be a small victory, but there are just too many things the Steelers can do in between now and August to put themselves in a position to be competitive and pursue a championship.
For all of the pessimistically-framed questions, how about these takes?
- What if a fully-healed, confidence-restored Roethlisberger improves on his 33 touchdown, 10 interception season?
- What if the Steelers finally get a running back capable of running for more than 1-2 yards per carry?
- What if the Steelers get a traditional, normal schedule undisrupted by COVID?
- What if the Steelers make it through a full year without a host of season-ending injuries?
- What if their trio of receivers takes another step in their development and becomes one of the league’s best?
- What if the Steelers draft or find a gem of an undrafted free agent who goes on to have a star-studded successful season?
What if even 2 of the answers to these questions are positive? Imagine the impact this can have on a football season?
Here’s the reality: next season is a spinning wheel of multiple letters that may surprise everyone and spell a beautiful word, or randomly spin and land on a collection of nonsense. But the wonderful thing is we just don’t know, and every possibility can be a reality.
To shut the door on success in the 2021 season for the Steelers is premature, misinformed, and fatalistic.
Cynicism and pessimism are easy, comfortable frames of thought, safe modes of operation. If our teams embraced these mentalities, we would condemn them for selling out and for giving up.
As fans, don’t we owe our teams the same treatment? And haven’t the Steelers demonstrated over the course of their existence they know what the hell they are doing?
Call me delusional, but the organization is built with one goal in mind and their pursuit is clear, despite the circumstances. Their track record is proven.
This team will be in the playoffs next year and will be in contention.
They will find a way.