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Steelers Friday mailbag: Biggest positions of need this offseason

Answering your questions ahead of Week 18

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Welcome to the weekly Steelers mailbag where we answer your questions. As aways, a big thank you to the readers of Behind The Steel Curtain for the support. Let’s open some envelopes.

Q: #1 Do you see Darnell Washington (TE) taking on more of an offensive role next year?

#2 In light of a disappointing 2023 season, will Diontae Johnson (WR) get a contract extension this year or hit free agency next year?- NWBroncofan

A: It’s something I’d certainly like to see more of. Obviously he’s a tremendous blocker, but having him line up in the slot occasionally and bully nickel corners or be utilized more in the red zone would make all the sense in the world. As for Diontae, I don’t see him getting another contract in Pittsburgh.

Q: Considering Baltimore has a highly rated pass defense and Mason’s excellent two game stretch, how bad would Mason have to play to get benched during the game for Kenny in week 18?- Ethan McCourt

A: I think Mason’s leash will be pretty respectable. His last two games are both better than any two games we’ve seen from Pickett, so I don’t see a reason why they’d be rushing to throw him in. This will be Rudolph’s toughest test without a doubt. I’m looking forward to seeing how he plays. Especially if they win and get into the playoffs.

Q: Many put the Steelers choices at QB on one end of the spectrum, run it back with Kenny and Co. or the other end, find an immediate replacement via free agency (Cousins), trade (Fields), or the draft (Daniels/Penix/Nix). How would you feel about choosing the middle option, bringing in outside competition (Minshew) and using a mid-round pick (Ward) to complete the QB room? You’d go into 2024 with Pickett, Minshew, Ward, and McSorley with eyes on 2025 if things don’t progress. BTW, Ward’s game versus Oregon State is one of the more impressive I’ve seen this year.- AmperandSteel

A: A few of my friends in the draft space like Ward a lot. J.P. Acosta, who does general NFL and college football coverage for us at SB Nation, said Ward would likely be in the range of QB4 in this draft. I’m talking to Damian Parson of The Draft Network today, as well, on a podcast and am going to get his thoughts on Ward because he does intrigue me. Minshew is fun. High variance. Shane Steichen has gotten the best out of him this year. You’d need a really good offensive mind who would be able to do something similar. You all know how I feel about Pickett, though. If he’s back next season, I don’t foresee him being the starter all season, which to me just feels like another year of Cam Heyward, T.J. Watt, and Minkah Fitzpatrick wasted.

Q: If and when Kenny Pickett is no longer a Steeler, what kind of Steelers articles do you envision yourself writing about?- Deutsch757

A: I chuckled. In a perfect world, I’d be writing about good quarterback play for a change instead of constantly having to critique bad quarterback play.

Q: Is there a player/position in the upcoming draft that the Steelers may move up for (a la Jones last year)?- sixringteam

A: Obviously it depends on how the board falls, but if they really like one of the cornerbacks, maybe they move up for a Cooper DeJean if they think he won’t make it to them, or a Kool-Aid McKinstry. I’d keep an eye on a guard or center in the first round, though. The last time they took an interior offensive lineman in the first round was 2012 when they took David DeCastro, and that worked out pretty well. If they really like someone like Graham Barton from Duke, maybe they move up a couple spots like they did last season. They don’t have a ton of capital to move, though, if they do go that route. They have an extra fourth from the Rams, but just one pick in every other round. I don’t see them moving around a ton just because of the lack of resources.

Q: After the Steelers fail to win a playoff game for the 7th straight yr, do you believe that a new OC will be the only coaching change the Steelers make in the offseason?- StillGrill

A: I don’t think Tomlin is going anywhere if that’s what you’re implying. I’d like to see changes all over the staff, though. Keep Danny Smith and Aaron Curry. Everyone else should be gone or heavily evaluated.

Q: If the Steelers manage to sneak into the playoffs this week, to my understanding, there are scenarios where we could match up with either the Bills, Chiefs, or Dolphins. I imagine we would be underdogs in all 3 potential match ups, but who would we feel we would have the best chance of upsetting?- John Kovacs

A: Oh this is a fun one. I know right away I’d want nothing to do with the Bills. Josh Allen is an alien, and the Bills show up for massive games. Their defense is one of the best in the league, and they’ve been running it down team’s throats as of late, and we know the Steelers are bad at stopping the run. Oddly enough, it might be Kansas City. Obviously Mahomes is great, but the Dolphins’ would boat race the Steelers. Their run game is good, and if they make the Steelers load the box, that’s where the quick passing game would eat them. The Chiefs have zero receivers that scare anyone outside of Rashee Rice, but he’s not a downfield threat, he’s their YAC guy. I think the Chiefs would be the best matchup for the Steelers out of those three.

Q: Hello and good morning. Assuming everyone is fully healthy and best possible personnel are filling the 22 starting positions, which are your Top 3 positions that need an infusion via Draft, trade or Free agency to allow the Steelers to become a high seed and legitimate perennial Super Bowl contender in the future?- Steelahz

A: Quarterback, center, offensive tackle. Cornerback is No. 3b on the list. You aren’t getting anywhere of worth without a capable quarterback. Mason Cole is a tire fire at center, so expect someone new to be brought in on the interior, and Dan Moore isn’t a franchise left tackle. I’m fine with keeping Broderick Jones at right tackle just because his pass pro is slopy at times. Find a good left tackle to protect whomever the quarterback is in 2024.

I appreciate everyone taking the time every week to ask the questions, and sincerely, thank you all for reading this season. Off-season coverage will be very heavy this year, including on-site reports from the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine. Keep reading, we appreciate you, and we’ll keep doing our best to give you the best coverage of this team you can ask for.