After a throwaway season thanks to Ben Roethlisberger’s injury woes last year, the Steelers look better than they have since the last time their star quarterback led them to the Super Bowl. This can be credited to several major moves the team made, from filling out the roster to assembling a good coaching staff. However, where the Steelers may perform best is in getting players to maximize their value on the field.
The Steelers’ season
No one knew quite what to make of the Steelers season coming in. Historically, one of the best-performing franchises year-in, year-out, the Steelers had valid causes for concern. Not only was Roethlisberger coming off a significant Tommy John injury, but the quarterback is rapidly approaching 40, and his age alone is cause for concern.
All of this was put to rest early on, however, as the team started the season. They defeated the New York Giants 26-16 in the first week of the season and have not looked back. While the schedule is a friendly one, with three of their games coming against the Giants, Denver Broncos, and Cleveland Browns, the team leaves nothing to chance.
Only one of the wins was within three points. To cap it off, Roethlisberger is having a marquee year. Through six games, he’s landing over 68% of his passes, throwing for 1,446 yards, 13 touchdowns, and only four interceptions. On top of that, however, the team has one of the best defenses in the NFL, giving up just 19 points per game.
It’s hard to know where to put all of the blame, but if Spotrac’s numbers mean anything, the answer might not lie in one or two players but the franchise’s ability to build up value through several different moves.
Perhaps the best testament to the Steelers’ success is their ability to draft well, details Spotrac. Although players like James Conner are becoming household names, in 2017, he was a third-round pick with no definitive shot in the NFL. Now, he is one of the most reliable running backs in the NFL. This helps establish what makes a team like the Steelers successful.
Teams love to land a top-ranked free agency or swing for the fences on a significant trade, but at the end of the day, few things matter more than drafting well. After all, drafting well often means that, at least for a time at the beginning of a player’s career, they can get superstar value for a fraction of the cost of a big-name free agent.
Conners makes just $825,000 a season. However, a look at the Steelers’ roster shows that most of the guys are making tiny contracts compared to other teams. Brad Dupree is the only player who has a base salary north of $10 million, while Roethlisberger makes a microscopic $1.5 million thanks to a hefty signing bonus. The Steelers know how to stretch a good contract a long way from linebackers like TJ Watt and Vince Williams to the offense.
Are the Steelers for real?
On paper, the Steelers should be near the top of everyone’s contender list, The Guardian. After all, they have a top-six offense and defense, one of the best quarterbacks to play the game, and a young core who maximizes their value more and more with every game. However, until the Steelers take on a few more Super Bowl contenders, their luck against better competition will be questioned.
Despite these questions, however, do not count out the Pittsburgh Steelers or write off their success as a fluke. Health permitting, they have one of the deepest rosters in the NFL, and depth is one of the most valuable assets an NFL team can boast.