The Pittsburgh Steelers started the year off as the best team in the entire NFL. They won their first 11 games and seemed primed for a run to the Super Bowl. Naysayers like Colin Cowherd were ridiculed for their lack of confidence in what this team would be able to accomplish.
Then everything fell apart. Pittsburgh ended up losing three straight and four of their last five to end the year – including an opening round postseason defeat to the Cleveland Browns where players were literally fighting each other on the sidelines.
This week, Steelers free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick spoke to the media and identified the exact moment when his team’s season completely blew up.
“Minkah Fitzpatrick says the turning point of the season was when they sustained that first loss to the WFT,” Brooke Pryor of ESPN reported. That defeat kickstarted a collapse that proved insurmountable for Pittsburgh.
“To go out how we did is very disappointing,” he continued, per Jenna Harner of WPXI. “A loss like that is very hard to deal with. We have to hang low for a little bit but still learn from it.”
Aside from just learning from their failures, the Steelers will also need to make some significant changes. Those changes started on Thursday with Mike Tomlin announcing the departures of offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner, offensive line coach Shaun Sarrett and defensive backs coach Tom Bradley.
“I want to thank all three of the coaches for their commitment and dedication to the Pittsburgh Steelers,” Tomlin said in a statement.
Who could’ve predicted that having a threesome with your brother could end so poorly. https://t.co/wifkDzyL6x
— Game 7 (@game7__) January 14, 2021
“They have all played integral roles in our success and I am appreciative of their efforts. Personally, Randy and I have been in Pittsburgh since I hired him in 2007, but our relationship began well before that. He has been a friend of mine for years and wish his family nothing but the best, and I am eternally grateful for our relationship both on and off the field.”
Pittsburgh will also need to address its inevitable quarterback dilemma.
Tomlin has played it very coy with the media about Ben Roethlisberger’s status going forward.
Yikes Tua’s teammates don’t respect him at all. This is getting a little sad. https://t.co/ZVVd5C9iNt
— Game 7 (@game7__) January 13, 2021
“I don’t have a clear assessment of the overall depth of the cap ramifications, but I think it’s reasonable to assume there’s a chance he’ll be back, certainly,” Tomlin told reporters on Wednesday. “We haven’t made any decisions about any personnel along those lines.”
Roethlisberger signed a two-year, $68 million deal in 2019 which brings with it a $41.25 million cap hit in 2021. Considering the Steelers need to figure out a way to bring back receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, running back James Conner and 24 other free agents, Roethlisberger’s price tag is suddenly a very real concern.
Couple that with Deshaun Watson seemingly being on the market, and it’s easy to see why the Steelers front office has a lot to think about in the coming weeks.