McKriger’s Korner: Steelers have hope for 2017

Posted on Feb 2 2017 - 1:00pm by Rachael McKriger

As a hardcore Steeler fan, I’m surprised with how well I’ve simmered down after their loss to the New England Patriots.

Let’s face it, fellow Steeler fans. It was ugly.

It’s Tom Brady’s speciality to pick defenses apart. That’s an undisputed fact among any fan in the NFL. You could have a picture of Brady on your dart board and aim for his eyes, but any NFL fan will agree: he’s one of the best in the league.

However, what the Patriots shouldn’t have been able to do was many unnecessary players look like All-Stars. Chris Hogan, I’m referring to you.

So what is there to take from that AFC Championship game, and the entire 2016-17 season? The biggest concern is depth. The Steelers need more depth.

Everyone has heard the news about Ben Roethlisberger throwing the word “retirement” out there. In the snap of a surprising finger former Steelers tight end Heath Miller announced his retirement at the end of the 2015-16 season. Now, could Roethlisberger be next?

It’s up in the air. Many are saying it’s doubtful, while others are understanding the real possibility of a potential Roethlisberger retirement.

“I’m going to take this offseason to evaluate, to consider all options,” Roethlisberger said. “To consider health, and family and things like that and just kind of take some time away to evaluate next season, if there’s going to be a next season.

“I’m going to take some time and evaluate with my family and just do a lot of praying about it and make sure it’s the right thing for me and my family,” Roethlisberger finished.

“He said it. So you do take it seriously,” head coach Mike Tomlin said. “I think that that’s a fair assessment in terms of where he is in his career. I’m not alarmed by it. I just think that that’s football.

One thing the Steelers learned this season is this: Landry Jones isn’t the future at quarterback. He shouldn’t even be the No. 2 behind Roethlisberger. He’s too inconsistent. He had a decent game against the New England Patriots, but look at prior performances. I mean, in a preseason game, he threw four interceptions to the second and third string Philadelphia Eagles defense.

If the Steelers are serious about finding Roethlisberger’s successor and he doesn’t retire, they need to grab a great quarterback out of the free agency. If Roethlisberger does retire, the Steelers need to find a better than great quarterback in the free agency. Starting a rookie quarterback that the Steelers (should) potentially draft isn’t the best option- especially in the AFC North.

There were positives from the 2016 season. Artie Burns, Javon Hargrave and Sean Davis were powerhouses on defense. Burns, cornerback, tied with linebacker Ryan Shazier with the most interceptions with three. Hargrave finished the season with two sacks while Davis was fourth on the team with 70 total tackles. (All numbers come from the regular season).

On offense, the Steelers had a huge positive in Eli Rogers, Cobi Hamilton and Xavier Grimble. Jesse James threw around some flashy moments, but just like Jones, he was incredibly inconsistent. However, his blocking game helped Le’Veon Bell break countless records.

As for Rogers, he finished third on the receiving chart with three touchdowns, 48 receptions, 594 yards and 12.4 yards per reception. Hamilton shined when he needed to in the red zone, catching two touchdown passes, while Grimble also grabbed two touchdowns.

Besides breaking records, Bell also managed to put up 1,268 rushing yards on 261 carries. He scored seven touchdowns even though he missed out on five regular season game. The first three regular season games were due to his suspension, while the other two- against the New England Patriots and Cleveland Browns- were due to injury.

If Bell can keep away from the marijuana- and keep healthy- he’ll be a force in 2017.

Some may say that Antonio Brown’s antics- with Facebook Live and Twitter- are distractions, and they are. However, they’re small ones. They aren’t big enough for the Steelers to trade him away. Folks have to remember: Brown is 28 years old, and in many ways, he’s still growing up himself.

But count your lucky stars, Steelers fans. At least he’s not going on boat parties and punching holes in the wall like Odell Beckham Jr.

The Steelers have the pieces to the puzzle, and will be returning more pieces in 2017. Martavis Bryant has applied for reinstatement after a year-long suspension. Markus Wheaton will be recovered from his shoulder injury while James Harrison announced that he’ll be back for another season, despite his age of 38.

The biggest question mark is Roethlisberger and his potential retirement. Steelers, start looking at those college quarterbacks. You might need one.

Photo of the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger courtesy of Patrick Smith/Getty Images.

Follow me on Twitter, @TheeMcKriger, for all Steelers coverage during the offseason.

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