Seems odd that I should contemplate how to rebuild the black and gold only 2 days removed from possibly their most complete game, especially defensively. However, I still think the Steelers are destined for a 7-9 season, 6-10 at worst, so my rebuilding process isn’t too absurd a thought.
Now, before I continue, let’s realize most of this is hypothetical. Many of the moves I am going to suggest are contingent upon the Steelers doing things a little differently as they have in the past, namely GETTING INVOLVED IN FREE AGENCY. Today I will take a look at how to rebuild the team offensively and tomorrow I’ll rebuild the defense. So, without further ado, here we go:
I don’t quite know what to make of the reports that QB Ben Roethlisberger wants out of Pittsburgh after this season. Ben has said he wants to stay a Steeler forever, but I don’t think Ian Rappaport’s story came out of thin air. I know Ben’s frustrated at the direction of the team, and he’s still unhappy over the hiring of Todd Haley as OC last year, so part of me feels there is some substance to this story. However, since one of the first moves in rebuilding this team is to gut the entire offensive coaching staff, including HC Mike Tomlin, keeping Ben happy might be a little easier.
In my opinion, Mike Tomlin and GM Kevin Colbert deserve all the blame for the Steelers decline. Neither has done a good, consistent job of finding and developing talent so both should be fired right off. Since I am playing the role of GM, I go looking for an intense, offensive minded coach who will bring some proper balance to the offense: Jon Gruden. I know Gruden is going to put every fiber of his being into the job, he’ll be at the office at 3am, and probably will sleep there on occasion. I want a guy who’s going to scream and get in players faces and not have that deer caught in the headlights look that has been a Mike Tomlin staple. Gruden is plan A. Another choice, albeit a sleeper might be Stanford’s David Shaw who has done a brilliant job building the Cardinal into a national contender. But Gruden is my first choice.
My next move may be a bit shocking, especially since I dumped Haley, but if the Steelers are ever to trade Roethlisberger, 2014 would be the year to do it. Yes, I am well aware of the $14 million in dead money, but maybe if I find the right trade partner (yes, I’m looking at you Arizona), some of that money could be picked up by his new team. I still think Ben is a top 10 QB so this pains me to do, but he could finish out his career (if it is Arizona) with his friend and former OC Bruce Arians and throw to a bona fide WR in Larry Fitzgerald for a season or two. I’d want at least a second and fourth rounder for him, and while that may be slightly steep I think Pittsburgh west, aka the Arizona Cardinals would do it. Besides, they owe us for Levi Brown.
The other reasons as to why trading Ben at this point makes sense is twofold: first Bruce Gradkowski can hold down the fort while a young guy develops. If Charlie Batch and Byron “shotput” Leftwich are still here, there’s no way I make the deal. Second, the 2014 draft has one of the deeper, better QB classes in a long time. I think the Steelers could grab a starter in round two, I really like Fresno State’s David Carr (although they may have to deal back into the first to get him),LSU’s Zach Mettenberger or Georgia’s Aaron Murray. A sleeper pick would be San Jose State’s David Fales, but he doesn’t have superior arm strength and has struggled at times. This way you let the rookie sit and learn for a year while Gradkowski holds the fort and then in 2015 take the reigns. I know Landry Jones is still on the roster, so giving him a shot isn’t out of the question, but this year’s draft is just too deep in quaterbacks to pass one up. The team cannot let another long period go by before landing their next franchise QB as they had between Bradshaw and Roethlisberger (think of this list:Mark Malone, David Woodley, Scott Campbell, Todd Blackledge, Bubby Brister, Neil O’Donnell, Mike Tomczak, Kordell Stewart,Tommy Maddox). See what I mean?
Somewhere in the mix of Le’veon Bell, Felix Jones and Johnathan Dwyer there is a running game. If the Steelers want to go back to their running roots, they need a lead fullback. I’m not a fan of either David or Will Johnson, so I’d dump them both. Gruden had a great FB at Tampa in Mike Alstott, so he’d appreciate a big ugly leading the way. If he’s still in shape, I’d give former Pro Bowl FB Michael Robinson a call and I’d look to address the position somewhere in the middle of the draft, perhaps with LSU’s J.C.Copeland, a 270 pounder who can run a 4.8. Oklahoma’s Trey Millard is another possibility, but something about a 270 pounder leading the way gets me giddy.
I’m still not totally sold on Dwyer, nor can I depend on Jones to make it through a season injury free, so I’d make a run at pending free agent RB Ben Tate of Houston. With Arian Foster’s injury history the Texans will probably try to re-sign Tate, but there’s nothing wrong with making a run (no pun intended) at him. A Bell- Tate backfield with Robinson and Copeland leading the way and with Jones as a change of pace could spring the team back into a top 15 ground attack.
Heath Miller isn’t going to play forever, so depth is an issue at TE. Baltimore’s tandem of Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson will both be free agents and it’d be fun to pluck one (Pitta) from them, but I’d turn to the draft and look at Georgia’s 6’5 Arthur Lynch or Iowa’s 6’6 CJ Fiedorowicz instead. Both have soft hands and are good blockers and each has faced good competition in their respective conferences.
We all know Emmauel Sanders is gone after this year so let him go and get a compensatory pick for him. Jerricho Cotchery has proven to be way too valuable to let go, so keeping him is a must. Markus Wheaton’s rookie campaign has been a washout so he’s still an unknown commodity. Derek Moye has had his moments and he’s worth developing. There’s not much on the free agent market (Eric Decker is out of their price range), so I’d look to draft one with one of my two second round picks (ours and the one I got for Ben) and I’d look to Penn State’s 6’3 playmaker Allen Robinson or Vanderbilt’s 6’5 Jordan Matthews. Both posses nice hands and can pick up large chunks of yards after the catch. Robinson especially has great footwork and drafting one will make up for passing on Cordarelle Patterson this year.
The Offensive line:
What can we say about this group that hasn’t been said? They are amongst the worst in the league, have been for some time. The last good Steelers OL had Alan Faneca, Jeff Hartings, Marvel Smith and Kendall Simmons as its mainstays. So where to start with this bunch? Well, I’d keep David DeCastro, Maurkice Pouncey and Fernando Velasco. That’s it. The rest I’d send packing, right along with OL coach Jack Bicknell Jr and his failed blocking schemes. Personally, I’d keep Velasco at center and move Pouncey to the other guard spot and as long as those three stayed healthy, the Steelers would be set. To fortify the tackle spots, I’d have to hope and pray that Texas A&M’s stalwart Jake Matthews would fall to me, since he can play either tackle spot. My other choice is the Michigan mauler Taylor Lewan, although he has struggled the last two games. If I’m unseasy about Lewan I may look at Florida State’s Cameron Erving who doesn’t have a ton of starting experience but does have nice upside. To help on the other side, I dip into free agency for Oakland tackle Jared Veldheer, who at 26 has a lot of football left. Yes, I know he’s hurt, but he’s good and young and could come at a reasonable price, especially coming off an injury season. Perhaps I’d bring back Kelvin Beachum for depth and only depth, but this is the one unit I’d completely overhaul.
So that’s my grand plan for rebuilding the offense. Most of it is wishful thinking, but its high time the Rooney family looks to change with the times. Yes, consistency is a nice thing, but there is a difference between consistency and complacency.
If you like (or don’t like) part one of my rebuilding, wait until you see what I do to the defense.
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