What did we learn in the 2016 season? The Steelers are still one of the AFC’s best teams. But in the AFC Championship Game, Pittsburgh was clearly a level (or five) below the New England Patriots. So, for the Steelers to overtake the Patriots, either they had to get better or New England had to get worse.
So far, the exact opposite has happened. The Pats have reloaded and already look like a juggernaut in the AFC.
#Patriots current offense:
QB Tom Brady
RB James White
WR Brandin Cooks
WR Julian Edelman
WR Chris Hogan
TE Rob Gronkowski
TE Dwayne Allen
— Nick Mensio (@NickMensio) March 11, 2017
Pittsburgh, meanwhile, has gone the other way.
Markus Wheaton missed most of 2016, but had 749 receiving yards in 2015 for 17 yards a catch. He’s now a member of the Chicago Bears. Lawrence Timmons, who had 114 combined tackles, recorded 2.5 sacks and two interceptions in 2015 is now a member of the Miami Dolphins.
Other than re-sign a few of their own free agents, the Steelers have done nothing.
Granted, Pittsburgh doesn’t have a ton of cap space. But the championship window is closing on the Ben Roethlisberger era. This isn’t a team that’s all that well positioned for a rebuild.
For the Steelers to have a real chance to win a Super Bowl in 2017, the remaining free agency period must be far more productive. Signing Dont’a Hightower away from the aforementioned Patriots would be a fantastic start.