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ESPN states the Steelers had the 10th best offseason in the NFL

The Pittsburgh Steelers have had a busy offseason, but where do they rank among their NFL counterparts?

Pittsburgh Steelers v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

The NFL offseason rages on, and while fan bases across the league are fixated on Organized Team Activities (OTAs) the major media outlets are looking at teams’ offseason from a global perspective.

In other words, ranking who did well, and who didn’t help themselves, throughout the 2023 NFL offseason.

ESPN Senior Writer Bill Barnwell ranked the best offseasons from this past offseason, and fans of the black-and-gold should be happy the team cracked the Top 10, although many might feel they should be ranked higher.

Let’s take a look at Barnwell’s list, and where the Pittsburgh Steelers rank. Also included is a reason for why the Steelers ranked 10th, and not higher.

1. Washington Commanders
2. Miami Dolphins
3. Dallas Cowboys
4. Philadelphia Eagles
5. Green Bay Packers
6. Cincinnati Bengals
7. Kansas City Chiefs
8. Buffalo Bills
9. Carolina Panthers

10. Pittsburgh Steelers

What went right: The offensive line got better. A line that has been a liability for years is working its way back toward adequacy. New Steelers general manager Omar Khan imported guard Isaac Seumalo from the Eagles then traded up in the first round of the draft to jump the Jets for left tackle Broderick Jones. Dan Moore has been overmatched over the past two seasons on the blind side; now, in addition to getting a higher-ceiling tackle into the starting lineup, Pittsburgh will have an experienced option at swing tackle.

What went wrong: The inside linebacker cycle churned on. This isn’t supposed to happen to the Steelers, and it’s a product of one or two moments of awful luck. Ryan Shazier was on his way to becoming the next legendary Pittsburgh linebacker, only to suffer a career-ending neck injury in 2017. The organization traded up in Round 1 to take Devin Bush two years later, but the No. 10 overall pick struggled in coverage even before tearing an ACL. Bush never developed into the player the Steelers hoped, and they declined his fifth-year option before moving on this offseason.

Pittsburgh went the veteran route without much luck, either. It traded for big-ticket Jags free agent Joe Schobert in 2021. He was cut after one season and replaced by another ex-Jags player in Myles Jack — but likewise, Jack was one-and-done. Now, the Steelers are back with two more veteran inside linebackers in Cole Holcomb and Elandon Roberts, who will make a combined $9.5 million this year. Tanner Muse, last seen under Kyle Shanahan’s microscope in the wild-card round for Seattle, also joins to serve as a backup and a special-teamer.

I’m old-fashioned, I guess. Shazier and Bush didn’t work out because of injuries — and trading up in the first round for an inside linebacker isn’t a great idea on paper anyway — but isn’t this the NFL equivalent of Linebacker U? The Steelers are impeccable at drafting and developing edge defenders, with T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith as the most recent in a series of devastating duos. But this feels like a position they could have addressed in the middle rounds of the draft and put their money toward more significant upgrades elsewhere.

What’s left to do: Work on a new deal for Highsmith. He had 14.5 sacks last season, but most of them came with Watt in the lineup. Highsmith had 11 sacks across the 10 games Watt played and a more modest 3.5 in the seven games Watt missed in September and October.

Pittsburgh had a 32.5% pressure rate with Watt on the field, which would have been the league’s sixth-best mark over the full season. Without Watt? It fell to 23.5%, which would have been the third-worst mark. I don’t think it takes a genius to figure out that any team would be worse without a perennial Defensive Player of the Year contender on the field, but the evidence suggests Highsmith is more of a secondary pass-rusher than a true primary No. 1, despite his gaudy sack totals.

What do you think of the ranking? Do you truly believe the Steelers had the 10th best offseason, or should they be ranked higher? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the rest of the 2023 NFL offseason.