The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of the teams who isn’t looking ahead to the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs. Instead, they are now looking at the longest offseason in professional sports. Within that offseason will reside several big markers for teams to add talent to their roster.
NFL Free Agency and the 2023 NFL Draft.
To diagnose team needs, you have to identify where the team needs help, and which is the most important. As we typically do, Dave Schofield and myself deliver our Top 5 positional needs for the team. Before getting into this exercise, understand this is what we believe are the Top 5 team needs, not necessarily what we predict will happen with the Steelers organization.
Let’s get to the Top 5 lists...
1. Defensive Tackle
When the Steelers played, or should I say got beat down, by the Philadelphia Eagles and Buffalo Bills this season, one thing was obvious. The Steelers were completely mismatched in the trenches. Some might have the offensive line as the priority, but, for me, it’s the defensive line. Cam Heyward isn’t getting younger, and finding another stud along the defensive front will help the entire defense.
2. Wide Receiver
This is typically when people turn away from my list and say it’s bogus. That’s fine, I’m used to it, but I’m sticking to my guns. Everyone looks at wide receiver and sees it as a luxury, but can you imagine what the corps would look like if George Pickens or Diontae Johnson got hurt? Whether this need is met via free agency or the draft is anyone’s guess, but it needs addressed in a big way this offseason to bolster the offense even more.
3. Left Guard
The need to improve the trenches exists on both sides of the football, and I chose to go with left guard over left tackle. I think the Steelers like Dan Moore Jr., and Kevin Dotson only has one year left on his current contract. If the Steelers add to the offensive line it will be on the left side, and I think they have more trust in the development of Moore than they do of Dotson. Hence why I went with guard over tackle.
4. Inside Linebacker
As you’ll see with Dave’s list, inside linebacker has to be high on almost every fan’s needs list. Why isn’t it higher? In my opinion, a dominant defensive line can help any linebacker look better. Keep offensive linemen from climbing to the next level will help a mediocre linebacking corps look better. This isn’t to suggest the Steelers won’t address the position, but adding to the defensive line takes priority for me.
The Steelers need help at cornerback, and a lot of this will depend how they handle contracts to players like Ahkello Witherspoon and William Jackson III. Either way, the Steelers were able to make due with their patchwork secondary this season, but upgrading should be viewed as one of the many priorities this offseason.
Other positions of need: Safety, OLB/EDGE, Left Tackle, Center
1. Inside Linebacker
Looking at what the Steelers currently have on the roster, they don’t have what they need at inside linebacker for the 2023 season. Devin Bush is a free agent and a “conscious uncoupling” is the feel I get from both him and the Steelers. Robert Spillane is a free agent as well as Marcus Allen, even though he didn’t play any defensive snaps and was merely a special teams player. But all the Steelers have right now is Myles Jack, whose base salary for the 2023 season could be more than what the Steelers want to pay, and rookie Mark Robinson who still has a lot to learn. The Steelers will need a combination of bringing back a player, finding some free agents, and/or the draft in order to rebuild this position.
2. Defensive Tackle/Nose Tackle
I combined this position into one because the Steelers spending either money or high draft capital on a player that can only be a nose tackle is not wise in today’s NFL as they would probably be maxed out at 15–20 snaps a game on a good day. But if that person, much like Javon Hargrave was for the Steelers, could also play defensive tackle in sub-package football, they are a much greater asset. With Larry Ogunjobi hitting the open market and Tyson Alualu getting hit by father time, this is the position the Steelers need to continue to address even with the great Cam Heyward who is not getting any younger.
The bottom line is, the Steelers need a number one option at cornerback. Last year Cam Sutton was that player and did a fair job. But is “fair” what the Steelers really want at the position? Even if Sutton returns, the Steelers would be a much better team if he was not forced into being the top option. They even took a shot to see if William Jackson III could be that guy, but health kept them from getting much of an answer and I doubt they want to spend $12.75 million for the season just to see.
Much like most of last season, the Steelers don’t have their other starting safety under contract at this time. Both Terrell Edmunds and Damontae Kazee are free agents, so the Steelers have some decisions to make. Personally I’m fine with both players returning and running it back how they did things in the second half the season once Kazee came back from his injury. Either way, they have got to do some work in order for this to happen.
5. Left Guard
I wanted to use another “slash” position like I did in number two but I used my one mulligan and I’m not going to cheat to take another. The Steelers have all of their starting offensive linemen returning, much like most of their positions on offense, but I feel the left side of the offensive line is where they could use the biggest upgrade. Ultimately, I’d like the Steelers to get a player in free agency or the draft that could play either spot on the left side of the line. But since I had to pick one, I went with guard because Kevin Dotson has one year less on his contract than Dan Moore. Additionally, Dotson‘s biggest problem with his play is inconsistency where Moore has more potential than any other player on the offensive line to where he could improve. But will he? Therefore if I had to choose between these two positions I would say guard first, but the other is very close.
Other positions of need: Left Tackle, Outside Linebacker
This was the topic of conversation on the Monday Morning Conversation segment of the “Let’s Ride” podcast. Take a listen in the player below as we expound on our lists, and give reasons for our selections: