A lot can change in 2 and a half weeks in Steelers Nation. The Steelers ugly season opening loss to the Patriots came ahead of a business trip that would keep me off line and unable to write for 2 weeks. As on cue, all hell broke lose (more on that at the end.)
But, as I pointed out after James Harrison got cut during my first Christmas in the US in 17 years, sometimes not being able to blog is a blessing.
Here go my reactions in sequence.
Steelers Lose to Patriots
I drank the Kool Aid. On paper, the Steelers 2019 squad was better than the 2018 squad that defeated the Patriots last December. And those Patriots had the look of a ’79 Steelers type squad to me – a dynasty enjoying its last roar before falling and fading. Plus the Steelers looked really good in preseason.
I don’t know that I expected a win, but I did expect the Steelers to fight tooth and nail and for the game to go down to the wire.
- Instead, the Steelers looked like they hadn’t so much as done a walk through in training camp.
They really came out flat in all three phases.
But it was only week one, we were told….
Steelers Trade Dobbs
I’m a sucker for underdogs like Joshua Dobbs. I was rooting for him since the day the Steelers drafted him. Yet, based on everything I read and what little I saw, he seemed to hit a plateau during the 2019 preseason campaign, and there was no question that Mason Rudolph should back up Ben Roethlisberger.
So the Steelers trading him for a 5th round pick seemed to be a smart move, even if it did depart from the Franchise’s core philosophy of always keeping 3 quarterbacks.
Besides, an extra 5th round pick would bolster their depleted capital going into the 2020 NFL Draft….
Ben Roethlisberger Injures His Elbow
So there I was, handing out tickets to the San Francisco Giants game, blissfully unaware of anything happening as the Steelers were playing the Seahawks, on the other side of the country.
At about the 6th inning I made it up to the luxury box my company had rented. I sit down, crack open a drink, scan the TV showing NFL scores, and I see Mason Rudolph’s passing numbers!
It didn’t take too long to find out that Ben Roethlisberger had left the game injured and that the Steelers had suffered yet another loss.
Well, we always knew that Ben Roethlisberger could suffer a season-ending injury, and now it has happened.
Steelers Trade 1st Round Pick for Minkah Fitizpatrick
I’m sitting there at a trade show, and I see a tweet from the Mexican Steelers WhatsApp group saying the Steelers have traded their 2020 1st round draft pick for Minkah Fitzpatrick.
- This has to be wrong, because the Pittsburgh Steelers NEVER trade their first round draft pick. Right?
Well, it wasn’t wrong, it was right.
This one leaves me with mixed feelings. The Steelers philosophy of building through the draft is one that has served the franchise well. Just look at those 6 Lombardi’s and its overall outstanding record since 1969. Sure, Bobby Beathard built two and a half Super Bowl championship teams by trading draft picks for proven players.
- But that’s not the Steelers Way.
Seeing the Steelers trade away a 1st round draft pick at the beginning of week three is kind of like trying to pen a love letter to your wife with your left hand. It just feels WRONG.
- But this isn’t a one-sided story.
No disrespect to Joe Haden, but Minkah Fitzpatrick already looks like he could be the secondary’s most dynamic playmaker, and the secondary has not had a dynamic playmaker since Troy Polamalu in 2013.
Sean Davis’ injury is also a factor. With Sean Davis out, the Steelers were looking at the prospect of Kameron Kelly starting the rest of the year at free safety. Even if the rest of the Steelers defense starts living up to its pedigree, that could be enough to sink the unit by itself.
Steelers history junkies can look at how the Steelers defense cratered in 1988 when Cornell Gowdy manned the strong safety spot between Donnie Shell’s retirement and Carnell Lake’s arrival via the 1989 draft.
The Steelers do not play for draft position, and that philosophy has served them well. Bill Austin supposedly screwed the team by not losing enough in 1968 therefore depriving Pittsburgh of a shot at drafting O.J. Simpson. Chuck Noll had to settle for Joe Greene instead.
How did that turn out?
Beyond affirming the franchise’s commitment to winning, the Steelers also get Minkah Fitzpatrick at a very salary cap friendly contract for 2 years plus the 5th year option.
Steelers Trade for Nick Vannett
Just to keep things interesting, the Steelers then went and traded away one of those 5th round picks for tight end Nick Vannett.
- Sometimes living in your hopes can animate your worst fears.
We’re only 3 weeks into the season, and Vance McDonald has already missed action in multiple games. Xavier Grimble is probably a serviceable number 3 tight end, but he looked in over his head as a legit number 2, and certainly doesn’t seem capable of being a number 1. Besides, he’s hurt.
- Really, the situation was no different than it was at safety with Sean Davis injured.
The Steelers made a move they had to make, but it came at the expense of yet another draft pick.
One Constant Remains
A lot can change in two weeks in Steelers Nation, but one constant remains: When I am unable to write, big things happen. Here’s a quick summary:
- The Cowher-Donahoe feud came to a head in 2000 on my first trip to Argentina. Dan Rooney sided with The Chin
- As the Rooneys themselves, agonized between Russ Grimm and Mike Tomlin, I was on vacation in Chile
- Super Bowl week in 2009 found me in Tandil deep in the province of Buenos Aires
- Super Bowl week in 2011 found me in Brazil where I missed Super Bowl XLV
- When Bruce Arians got the ax in 2012 I was in New York City on vacation (Rumor has it I tried to write something only to get “caught” by my wife….)
- When the Steelers decided to resign Antonio Brown in 2011 I was off on a weekend get away in Colonia Uruguay
- Troy Polamalu and Ike Taylor retired on my first important business trip for a new job in 2015
- Dan Rooney died the day I returned form another trip in 2017
- James Harrison got cut and signed with the Patriots during the first Christmas I celebrated in the US in 17 years
Yes, a lot has changed in the last two weeks. But somethings remain the same.