For the first time since about 2011, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offseason priority will be to add an influx of talent to the offensive side of the football. For nearly a decade the organization chased defensive talent capable of allowing its high powered offense a shot at a championship, but unfortunately it took until 2019 to build a defense that is championship caliber.
With the offense on the decline, the team will need to hit on a few draft picks to continue its run of success that has seen only 1 losing season since the turn of the century.
2020 Draft - Fill the cupboards
Starting things off, Pittsburgh should be making offensive selections with each of its first 4 picks. In all likelihood the majority of the defense should return next season so the team should not hesitate to spend most of their draft assets on ‘O’.
With the second round pick the Steelers should be targeting their biggest weakness, tight-end. Either Thad Moss or Hunter Bryant come to mind as players that should be on the board. In the third round the projected compensatory selection should be used to add to the receiving core with a player like Notre Dame’s Chase Claypool, who's as good a blocker as he is a receiver. And finally the two fourth round selections should see another O-Lineman (Jonah Jackson, Ohio State) and Running back (Clyde Edwards-Helaire, LSU) being brought in.
2021 Draft - Draft to develop
2021 is the final year of Ben Roethlisberger's contract and presumably the last of his career. This is the season the team will finally draft an offensive player in the first round of the draft since 2012 and it should be for Big Ben’s heir apparent.
While I have a hard time imaging this defense and Big Ben playing so poorly next season that they land in a position to draft either Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields (trading up is the right choice but likely would never happen) I can see them target one of the school returnee QBs who's draft stock should rise; either Texas’ Sam Ehlinger or Iowa State’s Brock Purdy. Both players are unpolished but another year in college and a year under the tutelage of a HOF QB should do either of them well.
Another player who has contemplated retirement without Big Ben on the roster is Maurkice Pouncey. With this knowledge the team should target a center in the second round that they can mold (or play at guard) in anticipation of Pouncey's retirement the following season. Oklahoma’s Creed Humphrey could be that player.
2022 Draft - Protect the QB
Finally, 2022 should be the start of a new era for the Pittsburgh Steelers. A new QB at the helm, Sam Ehlinger in this experiment. The Steelers would be wise to protect the next gunslinger at all costs. The team should be spending its first round pick on a left tackle. Alejandro Villanueva will be 34 in 2022 and his deal will end a season prior. Regardless of Big Al still being on the roster by this time the Steelers should be looking to bolster its O-Line with another high draft pick. The draft is too far away to target one name but this position will be at the top of the Steelers board.
What does the 2022 offense look like:
*Caps denotes hypothetical raft addition
- SAM EHLINGER, Mason Rudolph (age at 2022 kickoff, 27)
- Benny Snell (24), James Conner (27), CLYDE EDWARDS-HELAIRE
- Diontae Johnson (26), Juju Smith-Schuster (25), James Washington (26), CHASE CLAYPOOL
- THAD MOSS, Nick Vannett (29), Zach Gentry (26)
- 2022 FIRST ROUND LT, JONAH JACKSON, CREED HUMPHREY, David DeCastro (32), Matt Feiler (30)
While it is very unlikely that every pick is a hit, this is the kind of future plan the Steelers should be developing. The names above symbolize how soon the team is from seeing a big shift away from some long term players and the pressure to develop new young offensive talent.
What do you think, is this the plan the Pittsburgh Steelers should follow to quickly pair a high powered defense with brand new offensive players? Could this plan continue the streak of winning seasons for years to come or are we destined for a drop off? Hit up the comment section below to let us know your thoughts!