As my beloved family would surely attest, I love surprises. I should clarify that I love pleasant surprises. That's an important distinction, especially with Father's Day rapidly approaching.
A pleasant surprise can be anything from a thoughtful gift to a heart warming gesture, destined to put a smile on your face and joy in your heart. You can't go wrong with a warm hug and a sincere "I love you". If you have been blessed with a wonderful father who is still around, cherish the opportunity.
The Steelers have went out of their way to provide Steelers Nation with plenty of pleasant surprises this offseason, and I get the feeling Omar Khan and company aren't done quite yet.
For this article, I am going to focus on some of the more impactful surprises of the Steelers offseason, thus far.
Quarterback depth chart
How's this for a statement? The Steelers will potentially have the same QB depth chart that they finished last season with. If you would have suggested that at the end of the 2022 season, I would have called you crazy.
Kenny Pickett is the established starter entering Tuesday's mandatory mini camp, which comes as no surprise. However, the rest of the depth chart at the position this offseason was very surprising, to say the very least.
First up, the Steelers extended Mitchell Trubisky's contract, giving the Steelers some salary cap relief, and some extended control of their valued QB2. The extension made perfect sense for the Steelers, but many were surprised by Trubisky's mutual interest in remaining in Pittsburgh long term.
While that was slightly shocking, it paled in comparison to Mason Rudolph signing on for another season with the Steelers. Once again, the move made perfect sense for the Steelers, especially with the emergency QB3 rule change, but the majority of fans wholeheartedly believed that Rudolph couldn't wait to put the Pittsburgh skyline in his rear view mirror. Maybe the franchise hasn't hindered the young man's career as much as many have suggested.
Regardless, I consider the current construction of the Steelers QB depth chart to be a pleasant surprise.
Philosophical offensive shift
The Steelers have totally committed to the ball control mindset that was mostly successful during the second half of last season. Gone are the days of Ben Roethlisberger and company spreading the field and attacking at multiple levels on offense. Who are we kidding? Those days have been missing in action for a few seasons now, but that didn't stop the Steelers from trying, unsuccessfully I might add.
This version of the Steelers offense wants to go against the grain. They want to be a ball control, balanced offense in a league engineered to throw the football. It actually makes sense, seeing how the majority of modern defenses are purposely designed to slow down the passing game first and foremost.
The NFL is continuously evolving, and we witnessed a not so subtle shift in offensive philosophy by teams like the Chiefs, Eagles, and Forty Niners last season. The philosophy produced some of the most successful offenses in the NFL.
I was pleasantly surprised when the Steelers upgraded their offensive line depth chart by signing Nate Herbig, but I was ecstatic when they signed All Pro caliber left guard Isaac Seumalo a few days later. Then they drafted the most athletically gifted tackle prospect in franchise history in potential superstar Broderick Jones. Success starts in the trenches, and the Steelers now possess their most talented offensive line in years.
The Steelers have also added multiple offensive weapons blessed with superior size and speed during free agency and the draft. Darnell Washington is an enormous weapon and instant mismatch. The same could be said of free agent reclamation project Hakeem Butler, if he is finally ready to capitalize on what may very well be his last best opportunity.
The Steelers finally appear loaded with enough versatile talent to create consistent mismatches against the opposition, for the first time in years. Wouldn't that be a pleasant surprise?
Reloaded cornerback depth chart
The Steelers have possessed one of the slowest secondaries in the NFL for years now. The lack of speed, especially at the cornerback position, has severely hampered the Steelers ability to aggressively matchup against the top offenses in the NFL.
This glaring shortcoming was amplified during T.J. Watt's absence due to injury in 2022, which devastated the Steelers once formidable pass rush, fully exposing the Steelers lack of pass coverage abilities. Teams like the Buffalo Bills and Philadelphia Eagles feasted on this particular Steelers defensive shortcoming.
Omar Khan recognized the problem, and committed to doing something to fix the issue. First off, he resisted the urge to overpay for familiarity, which would have consisted of attempting to retain Cameron Sutton. That's most likely what previous GM Kevin Colbert would have tried to do, but Khan doesn't adhere to that antiquated mindset.
Instead, Khan signs free agent veteran Patrick Peterson for a couple of reasons. Peterson is Sutton's more experienced and athletically gifted replacement, but that's hardly his only benefit. I wholeheartedly believe that the Steelers had every intention of potentially drafting their next #1 cornerback prospect in the first couple of rounds of the 2023 draft. They achieved their goal when they selected Joey Porter Jr. with the first selection of the second round. Peterson instantly became the ideal mentor for the talented young Porter, but wait, it gets even better.
The best Steelers draft most of us can ever remember blessed the franchise with some more unexpected good fortune in the seventh round. Unbelievably, Cory Trice Jr. fell all the way to the Steelers in the seventh. Keep in mind, the Steelers didn't have a pick in the fifth or sixth round. So just how good is Trice? Put it this way, he was the closest comparison I had for Joey Porter Jr. in the entire draft class.
The Steelers desperately needed to overhaul their cornerback position to be able to effectively execute the type of pass coverage I believe they are wanting to play in 2023. I would have been thrilled with one talented young corner with optimal size and speed. The Steelers may have lucked into adding two in one draft class.
What a pleasant surprise!