Steelers’ time has got to be now

Commentary

Over the past several years, the Pittsburgh Steelers have been considered one of the NFL’s elite teams.

Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell are arguably the best quarterback, wide receiver and running back combination, and the defense is composed of young, talented athletes.

But with Big Ben contemplating retirement, Bell still wanting paid and the loss of Ryan Shazier, how much longer can they contend?

The Steelers ended the 2017 season losing the divisional round playoff game to the Jacksonville Jaguars, 45-42, in an offensive shootout.

Roethlisberger threw for 469 yards and five touchdowns, and the Steelers were still unable to advance to the next round to face New England.

The offense seemed to be the only bright spot in the playoffs with the defense needing improvement.

This could be an issue for the Steelers as they don’t have any retirement scares or large contract talks on the defensive side of the ball. They don’t fear losing anyone, but they could stand to gain some superstar defenders. Although they did lose Shazier, there is still a possibility he can return to the lineup in the next two years to solidify the defense.

The Steelers need to squeeze everything out of Roethlisberger before he heads to retirement in order to make another run at the Super Bowl.

Bell is still one of the best backs in the league, Brown is still the best wide receiver, and the offensive line is among the league’s best. The Steelers have all the tools they need to get it done on the offensive side to compete for another Super Bowl.

Defensively, it appeared as if the Steelers failed to address their need at middle linebacker in April but instead drafted two safeties — Terrell Edmunds from Virginia Tech and Marcus Allen from Penn State.

Both are big-box safeties that can fill holes and make tackles to cover the loss they have at middle linebacker. With their current roster, the Steelers are capable of winning their seventh Super Bowl in the next few seasons. Their future, though, is what’s really in question.

To fill the void Roethlisberger will leave after retirement, the Steelers drafted Mason Rudolph at quarterback and his counterpart receiver, James Washington from Oklahoma State — one of the most dynamic QB and WR combos in college football.

Washington should find his role early in the season after Steelers traded Martavis Bryant on draft night. Playing behind Roethlisberger for a year could pay off in the long run, potentially making Rudolph the next franchise QB.

The Steelers also need to re-sign Bell to ensure a bright future. Even though he’s asking for a large sum of money, his production doesn’t lie.

If Shazier can return and the Oklahoma State duo can develop, the Steelers may still be a contending team this year and in the future.

And don’t forget: The Steelers’ main AFC threat, New England, is in jeopardy of losing Tom Brady to retirement.

McCloskey resides in Altoona.

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