The Pittsburgh Steelers have seen a lot of roster turnover this offseason, and not just when it comes to adding players via free agency. While Omar Khan and the new-look front office have added plenty of players, they have also lost several key pieces of their team in the process.
No position group was hit has hard, as it pertains to players lost, as the defensive secondary.
Cam Sutton, Ahkello Witherspoon, Arthur Maulet and Terrell Edmunds have all moved on to new homes for the 2023 season.
With those players out, in are rookies Cory Trice Jr. and Joey Porter Jr., along with Patrick Peterson and Chandon Sullivan to help round out the group.
When you consider that amount of turnover it takes time to gel as a group, something Levi Wallace knows all about when he was the new guy in the group a year ago when he signed with the Steelers as a free agent.
“You continue to build on it,” said Wallace. “It’s not going to be perfect just a month into practice. It goes back to getting to know guys. You have to build that trust in a person and then you trust knowing they are going to be in the position they say. It’s easy to communicate when you have that trust built into it. It’s just spending time with another guy, getting to know him. We all come from different backgrounds but have all been playing football for a long time.”
When it comes to the communication necessary to succeed as a group, it all starts with attendance. This is something the Steelers have had a great deal of throughout Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and mandatory minicamp.
“We have had great attendance with everybody here almost every day. We are only here for part of the day, but it’s what you do after that with guys who have never been in Pittsburgh before.” said Wallace. “Going out after practice, building camaraderie, things like that. That stuff is valuable and pays off come December and January when games are real important.”
Throwing two rookies into the mix certainly adds a different dynamic compared to the additions of Peterson and Sullivan. You aren’t talking to players who have been there and done that, but players who are still getting acclimated to the professional game. This takes more time for everyone involved.
“It’s bringing the young guys on whose eyes are still wide,” said Wallace. “They are going to have to make an impact at some point in the season. Whether that’s early or late, we expect guys to contribute. We all have to build together, especially in the back end with the defensive backs. There are five or six of us on the field at the same time. During the season things happen, and the expectation here is that things don’t fall off. This time right here is really important and a key for us.
“They are walking into a whole new system, a different speed. Football changes a little bit for those guys. It’s still an adjustment period and that is why we have training camp. It won’t be built here in these last three days of minicamp and what we already did. We still have training camp. We still have July and guys work on things they need to. We still have time to build on that.”
Can the Steelers’ secondary step up to the task? A better question might be if the team’s pass rush can get to the quarterback before any issues are exposed by the opposition. The two parts of the defense work in concert, and they’ll need to be on top of their game to reach the goals they have set for the 2023 season. In the meantime, this secondary is starting over from scratch.
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.