When it comes to the NFL offseason, most believe it to be the longest in all of professional sports. Looking at a calendar, you’d be right; however, when you are talking about events on the calendar, you’re wrong.
With the Super Bowl officially in the books, the NFL takes a one month hiatus, if you’d call it that, before the start of the new league year. The new league year represents the start of free agency and the legal tampering period. With that comes a fresh crop of players on the move, and being acquired by any of the 32 teams with enough salary cap space to entice them to join their teams.
After the first and second waves of free agency die down, the NFL Draft heats up and fans are enamored with who their favorite team will draft in hopes of building the team they hope will bring them a Lombardi trophy.
Following the draft starts the carousel of rookie minicamp, mandatory minicamp and Organized Team Activities (OTAs). In other words, there is no stopping the NFL cycle. Outside of a few months, the news cycle continues.
With the first down time officially upon us, many news outlets are looking ahead to see what the status of teams in 2023 will be. As for the folks at ESPN, they decided to put all 32 teams into “tiers”. For your information, those potential tiers are as follows:
- Still major contenders
- Need a postseason breakthrough
- Headed on the right track
- In a comfortable spot — despite a losing season
- Stuck in QB purgatory
- Time to reassess the state of the franchise
- New coach, new direction?
- Major rebuild in the works
It’s at this point when fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers want to know where their favorite team ranks in the above tiers. According to the folks at ESPN, the Steelers found themselves in the “headed on the right track” tier.
Here is what they had to say, and the reasoning behind putting the Steelers where they did:
Average age of roster: 27.1
Salary-cap space: $1,032,747
Total 2023 draft picks: 6
What’s next: The Steelers will look to make a major jump in Year 2 with quarterback Kenny Pickett, who showed promise late in the season and will have plenty of playmakers. Pittsburgh could look to add a corner in free agency or the draft. Cameron Sutton is an option to return but might have priced himself out. Free agent James Bradberry would be a good fit. Or the Steelers could get wild and target Ravens nemesis Marcus Peters.
Losing inside linebackers Devin Bush and Robert Spillane leaves a void up the middle, and we should watch for draft movement there. Lastly, the Steelers must decide on the future of quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who is due $8 million — a little steep for their typical backup plans.
When you consider how the season ended for the Steelers, it’s difficult to envision them being in any other team which has been used in this particular exercise. After starting 2-6, finishing with 7 wins out of their last 9 games, and 4 of those games being consecutive wins to end the regular season, you’d expect expectations to be ratcheted up a bit.
Throw in the fact their extremely young, but talented, offense could “run it back” next year if they wanted, and it is safe to say the fan base is hoping for not just a winning season in 2023, but a playoff berth.
Will the team live up to the hype? A lot of that depends on the type of offseason the team has in 2023. Will Omar Khan and Andy Weidl be able to bring in quality players via free agency? Will they create enough salary cap space to be able to make said moves? Then you start to think about the 2023 NFL Draft, and only have six selections throughout the there day process. Can they hit more home runs than strike outs?
If those questions can be answered with a resounding ‘yes’, then they will be on their way to not just being a team “on the right track” but a team to be reckoned with.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the rest of the NFL offseason.