Tim Benz: A lesson in hope versus blind faith for the Steelers, Pirates | TribLIVE.com
Tim Benz, Columnist

Tim Benz: A lesson in hope versus blind faith for the Steelers, Pirates

Tim Benz
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Pirates pitcher Trevor Williams

I want to expand on a thought that I heard from my ESPN Radio Pittsburgh colleague Adam Crowley.

And by “expand on a thought,” what I’m trying to say is, I want to steal his idea.

Which I will.

To be fair, I think Adam stole it from me. Because I went on a similar rant about the Pirates back in 2016 during spring training.

Then again, how can I accuse him of stealing when nothing ever changes with the Pirates?

So, hey, mediocre minds think alike. And Adam and I are nothing, if not mediocre minds.

You’ll be abundantly aware of that at 7 p.m. Thursday when we begin our Steelers training camp program.

At any rate, Adam was talking about how the Pirates are flawed because they confused the concepts of “hope” and “wishful thinking.”

In other words, maybe it was right to hope that Trevor Williams could be an above-average pitcher this year. But it was wishful thinking to believe he could replicate any measure of what he did in the second half of 2018.

Maybe it was right to hope that Jung Ho Kang had a little bit left in the tank. Yet, it was wishful thinking to assume he could be a regular contributor of any significant impact.

It was right to hope that Joe Musgrove could take another step forward. It was wishful thinking to believe you could get an injury-free season out of Jameson Taillon.

It was a good segment from Adam. I listened intently. Just one problem. He was talking about the Pirates! It’s always wishful thinking when discussing the Pirates!

I find that discussion far more intriguing as it relates to the 2019 Steelers. Because hope versus wishful thinking is a very worthwhile hair to split as we ready ourselves for the preseason.

For instance:

• There are some who are dead set on the perception that the divorces of Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell from the franchise will mean that the burden of distraction will be gone and that the club will return to 13-3 due to addition by subtraction.

To me, that’s wishful thinking.

I hope all the good vibes, happy talk and improved chemistry are a factor in them being 10-6 and, at least, getting back to the playoffs. But my optimism stops there.

• Based on what I’ve seen at Saint Vincent College, we can hope that JuJu Smith-Schuster steps up and assumes the role of a No. 1 receiver. He looks fantastic.

However, I think it’s wishful thinking to predict Donte Moncrief, James Washington or Diontae Johnson emerge as a clear-cut No. 2 target.

• It’s neither hope nor wishful thinking that Matt Feiler can be a steady starter at right tackle, replacing Marcus Gilbert. For the most part, he was exactly that in 2018. Everything I’ve seen from him the past few weeks indicates he’s gotten even better during the offseason.

• I hope Vance McDonald takes on an improved role and becomes a Pro Bowl-caliber tight end. It’s wishful thinking to assume he’ll stay healthy enough to do that if his workload expands significantly and they don’t get him a complementary backup to alleviate some of the burden.

• I hope Terrell Edmunds forces a few more turnovers. It’s wishful thinking to assume he’ll make the second-year jump that Troy Polamalu did.

• I hope Devin Bush helps the defense. It’s wishful thinking that he’ll be as good as Kendrell Bell was in his rookie season back in 2001.

• I hope the run-pass split on offense narrows. It’s wishful thinking to take stock in that notion if Ben Roethlisberger still has veto authority at the line of scrimmage on every play.

• I hope place kicker Chris Boswell is better than the awful 2019 he put on tape. It’s wishful thinking to believe he’ll ever replicate his stellar 2017.

• I hope the Browns fail to live up to expectations. It’s wishful thinking to blow-off any chance that they’ll be better than .500 given the improvements to their roster.

You can see where I’m going with this. And where the Steelers need to go with this. The organization and the coaches have plenty of good ideas and theories. But they also need to buffer themselves and get ready for “Plan B” in a lot of areas.

And I hope they are better at that than the Pirates.

It shouldn’t be wishful thinking to have confidence that they will be.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.

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