The Steelers never use the term “rebuilding.”
But they are rebuilding and probably hope you don’t notice. Heck, perhaps they don’t even realize.
The six primary components of their offensive line are now 25, 25, 24, 24, 23 and 23. Their new quarterback is 27, hardly old for that position. They just signed a 26-year-old cornerback, presumably to replace their 32-year-old cornerback (unless he comes limping back because of a lack of offers elsewhere).
Whether you use the term or not, that’s rebuilding.
It almost certainly means no playoffs in 2022. With more good assembly and a modicum of luck, perhaps the Steelers are a force again in 2023 or ’24. Perhaps they can be better than a team that stumbles into the postseason and loses its first game.
It’s time for big-picture thinking.
Mitch Trubisky is the sexiest of the signings by nature of his position. He’ll be an improvement over last season’s version of Ben Roethlisberger until the final 15 minutes. That’s when Roethlisberger’s guile engineered six fourth-quarter comeback wins.
Trubisky has more mobility and a better deep arm. He’ll be able to execute more components of offensive coordinator Matt Canada’s offense.
Trubisky’s reported contract is for two years, $14.25 million with a bunch of incentives he probably won’t reach. It’s a bridge contract. He’s a bridge quarterback. The Steelers are likely to get their long-term answer at the position in 2023, when the draft is awash with first-round QB talent.
The Steelers already had a bridge quarterback in Mason Rudolph. He’s not as good as Trubisky, but it would be better to go 4-13 than 7-10.
But the Steelers just can’t help themselves.
The offensive line is better. Returning both tackles doesn’t seem optimum. Giving Chuks Okorafor almost $30 million over three years seems insane.
Could Okorafor get that on the open market, or did the Steelers bid against themselves? (The Steelers are only truly on the hook for the $10.5 million paid in the contract’s first year.)
But the Steelers are much better on the offensive line’s interior. New signings James Daniels and Mason Cole join Kevin Dotson and Kendrick Green to form a versatile group that gives the Steelers a bunch of maulers and fighters at guard and center.
The Steelers need to battle more and better. Perhaps it starts there. (The Steelers need to run the ball better, too.)
As this gets written, receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and cornerback Joe Haden have not committed in free agency. There’s an emotional attachment to both players, especially Smith-Schuster, who is said to be receiving little interest. (That’s bad for his brand.)
If either could be had back for a bargain price, the Steelers should consider.
But the Steelers haven’t won a playoff game in five years. You can’t attach undue sentiment to players who were part of an era that hasn’t exactly been covered in glory. Move on.
Trubisky is the main story.
The Steelers were never going to get a big-name quarterback. Trubisky was as good as they were going to get.
Trubisky’s excelling enough to be the starting quarterback for the long term isn’t the way to bet, but it’s possible.
Trubisky was a second overall pick, so he’s got pedigree. He got Chicago’s rotten organization into the playoffs two times in four years. That should have got him a statue outside Soldier Field, but it got him the shaft instead. In Trubisky’s second season, 2018, he ranked third among all NFL quarterbacks in QBR. I’m not sure what QBR is, but Trubisky was third.
Getting Trubisky doesn’t mangle the salary cap or the next few drafts.
He’s a sensible get by a team that, so far, is having a sensible offseason.