The 2022 NFL season is in the books for the Pittsburgh Steelers. After Jason Sanders stroked a 50-yard field goal to send the Miami Dolphins to the postseason, Pittsburgh was left with a bittersweet feeling after taking down the hated Cleveland Browns but coming up just short of their goal: A chance to play in the NFL Playoffs.
For Steelers brass, and black and gold fans as well, it’s time to look forward to 2023. There are many decisions to be made and transactions to process if the organization wants to take the next step after a promising finish to a season highlighted by marked growth and development for this relatively young team.
As one who has seen every snap and followed that growth closely throughout the season, I have some ideas, like many of you probably do, about how Pittsburgh can make the leap to true contender in 2023. Here are my Top 5 goals I believe the Steelers must accomplish this offseason to do just that.
Let’s dive in!
Goal 1: Don’t settle for mediocrity
The Steelers turnaround from laughing stock in the season’s first half to playoff contender after their Week 9 bye is well documented and encouraging. However, a strong finish alone should not leave the team’s leaders satisfied heading into the offseason.
Matt Canada, though improved, does not elevate the play of his talented young offense through scheme and play calling. That’s not good, considering that is a major responsibility for a team’s offensive coordinator (OC). Sticking with Canada in 2023 would be a detriment to the growth of the Steelers young, but important, playmakers on offense. Specifically for Kenny Pickett, it is essential to find an OC that can help him reach his ceiling as an NFL quarterback, like Doug Pederson did for Carson Wentz and Trevor Lawrence, or Kyle Shanahan for Matt Ryan and Jimmy Garoppolo.
The same could be said for some members of the offensive line (OL). Despite significant improvement throughout the season, the Steelers OL still has weaknesses, especially on the left side, and it’s up to the Steelers to not settle for the status quo if they want to “make the leap” in 2023.
Goal 2: Surround your QB with more weapons
Although it’s painful to recognize for Steelers fans, the Cincinnati Bengals have laid out an impressive blueprint for building a perennial contender in the modern NFL. Find your quarterback (Joe Burrow), draft star talent around him (Tee Higgins, Ja’Marr Chase, Joe Mixon, etc.), protect him (Free Agency spending spree at OL last offseason), and solidify your defensive holes (drafted Dax Hill in 2022).
The Steelers have already begun this process. In fact, they have followed the blueprint almost exactly. The Bengals drafted Burrow and Higgins in Rounds 1 and 2 respectively in 2020 and added them to some existing veteran talent. The Steelers got Kenny Pickett and George Pickens in Rounds 1 and 2 in 2022. The year before, they successfully addressed running back (Najee Harris) and tight end (Pat Freiermuth). Now it’s time to add to that group with blue-chip talents in the draft and savvy vets in Free Agency. I specifically think the Steelers should strongly consider drafting a high-end WR early in 2023.
Goal 3: Find a true number 1 Cornerback
The Steelers have a lot of money tied up on the defensive side of the ball. None of those dollars, however, are going to a true CB1 in the secondary. With so many other needs to address in prior years, Mike Tomlin has settled for a bevy of mid-level CBs on the back end with varying success. The best of those has been Cam Sutton, the team’s 3rd round pick in 2017. Sutton is a free agent in 2023, and with limited cap space available, it looks like the Steelers may not be able to afford his services moving forward.
Despite likely losing Sutton, the Steelers still have decent cover guys like Akhello Witherspoon, Levi Wallace, and William Jackson III, all under contract for 2023. None of those names stand out as a real top corner, though, so addressing CB1 early in the draft would be an affordable and potentially effective way to make this secondary one of the league’s best next year. That would be huge for this defense.
Goal 4: Keep adding talent along the Defensive Line
You simply can’t have enough talent and depth along the defensive line (DL) at the NFL level. The Steelers likely agree, which is why the team has drafted Isaiahh Loudermilk (4th Round) and DeMarvin Leal (3rd Round) in 2021 and 2022 respectively along the interior. Still, All-World defensive tackle Cam Heyward isn’t getting any younger, and the Steelers could really use a true 0-tech (nose tackle) to really anchor the line of scrimmage. Don’t be surprised if the Steelers use an early 2023 NFL Draft pick on the DL.
Goal 5: Draft a high-upside pass rusher
The Steelers have not spent an early or mid-round selection on an EDGE defender since drafting 2022 breakout stud Alex Highsmith in the 3rd round in 2020. Outside of quarterback and maybe left tackle, pass rusher is the most important position in football. You cannot have too many quality EDGE rushers. Not to mention, with Highsmith only under contract through 2023, and no clear-cut 3rd edge rusher on the roster currently, adding a pass rusher in this year’s draft with one of their three Day 2 picks could be a big-time move for the Steelers future even beyond 2023.
What do you think the Steelers top goals should be for 2023? Let me know in the comments section and vote in the poll below to let your voice be heard. As always, go Steelers!
What is the Steelers biggest need going into 2023?
This poll is closed
Find a new OC
Improve the OL
Find a CB1
Get Kenny more weapons
Add talent along the DL