The Pittsburgh Steelers have had a rather surprising offseason this year. The team strayed away from past concepts in General Manager Kevin Colbert’s last season. The Steelers have generally been a team heavily reliant on the draft and players who were already on the roster. But, the team went on a spending spree and brought in many great players from other teams. These players fill the holes at some positions that the Steelers originally needed, but now, they have new needs for this upcoming Thursday’s NFL Draft.
Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 NFL Draft Needs Following Free Agency
What Were the Steelers Original Needs?
Going into the offseason, the team knew that they were going to have to make some big moves and decisions. First, the team lost 18-year veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger when he retired in late January. This created a problem for the Steelers that they haven’t had to address for nearly two decades: the search for a new franchise quarterback. With a potential quarterback room of Mason Rudolph, Dwayne Haskins, and Josh Dobbs, the Steelers needed to look to outside sources to bring in some competition at quarterback.
One of the biggest needs for the Steelers last year was at the offensive line. The team had one of the worst lines in all of football. So, they needed to bring in some free agents to further strengthen their young and inexperienced line.
The Steelers also dealt with several vacant spots due to free agents on their own team. JuJu Smith-Schuster, a beloved young receiver, departed from Pittsburgh to Kansas City to play for the Chiefs. Joe Haden, one of the team’s best cornerbacks, is not likely going to sign back with the Steelers. Plus, strong safety Terrell Edmunds ultimately chose to stay with the Steelers after shopping offers from other teams.
Overall, the Steelers needed to address these top five positions in free agency and the draft:
- Offensive Line-Mostly Interior (Guard, Center)
- Wide Receiver
- Secondary (Cornerback/Safety)
How Did They Address Them in Free Agency?
The Steelers shocked the NFL world when they announced that they were signing ex-Bears and Bills quarterback Mitchell Trubisky to a two-year deal. Trubisky, a pro-bowl quarterback in 2018, is expected to be the Steelers starter next season. He played well with Chicago despite poor coaching and management for years. Plus, he was able to develop under star quarterback Josh Allen and reputed coaches Sean McDermott and Brian Daboll last season. Whether Trubisky is the long-term answer at the position or just a filler will be determined in these next few years.
The Steelers went out and signed guard/center Mason Cole and guard James Daniels in free agency. Both interior linemen have extraordinary ability and have very high ceilings. They should be able to hold down the line rather well next to guys like Dan Moore Jr., Kevin Dotson, and Chuks Okorafor. Speaking of Okorafor, the Steelers extended him for three years and nearly $30 million to keep him on the team. It’s safe to say the Steelers offensive line will look better and be more functional next season.
At the wide receiver position, the Steelers are in need of some help. Their new wide receiver #1, Diontae Johnson, had a career year last year and was arguably a top 10-15 receiver in the league. However, Johnson is demanding a large, long-term contract extension before his rookie deal expires in 2023. Johnson deserves to be paid quite a bit, but his large demands of nearly $20 million per year make it less likely that he is re-signed. In fact, only a few Pittsburgh receivers have been given second contracts in the past 20 or so years. After signing ex-Ravens receiver Miles Boykin off of the waivers, the Steelers wide receiver room is: Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, Miles Boykin, Gunner Olszewski, and then Cody White and Anthony Miller. The Steelers have several talented guys here, but they may be looking to add another receiver in a loaded, talented class.
The Steelers also needed to address their secondary positions. Too many times last year did Pittsburgh’s cornerbacks or safeties get burned for big plays. Plus, it seemed that their corners and safeties were a lot less effective at creating turnovers. Despite there being talks that the Steelers would bring in big-name safety Tyrann Mathieu, the Steelers instead re-signed Terrell Edmunds to a cheap one-year deal. Despite Joe Haden leaving, the Steelers brought in ex-Bills cornerback Levi Wallace to hold down the position. Their room seems a bit weak compared to other teams, but they will still be solid. The group features Wallace, newly re-signed Ahkello Witherspoon, Cam Sutton, and a few others like Justin Layne, Arthur Maulet, and James Pierre.
The Steelers featured one of the worst run defenses last year. They severely lacked depth at defensive line and linebacker all year. The team committed to having Devin Bush back for another year, and they gave Robert Spillane another chance with the team. But the biggest signing was bringing in ex-Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack. Jack has been a powerful force for the Jaguars defense these past few years, and now he brings his talents to Pittsburgh.
It is also worth noting that the Steelers defensive line should become one of the best lines next season. It will feature guys like Cameron Heyward, reigning defensive player of the year T.J. Watt, Chris Wormley, and hopefully Stephon Tuitt and Tyson Alualu. This unit could be a powerful force next year and restore the days of “The Steel Curtain.”
Remaining Needs and Potential Draft Players
Following a rather unusual free agency period, the Steelers now look to the NFL Draft that starts this weekend. After reassessing all of the positions, the Steelers do not NEED a player at any position. Sure, they could always use some upgrades and some more depth from the rookie class, but the Steelers could do just fine with their current roster. The Steelers have always tried to draft who they thought was the best available player. That trend will likely continue this year, so it’s not easy to predict who they might draft.
However, here are some positions the Steelers could use an upgrade for:
- Wide Receiver
- Offensive Line Depth
- Secondary Depth
The Steelers have had several meetings with many of the draft’s highest prospects, including Malik Willis and Kenny Pickett. A lot of the guys in this year’s class have great talents, but they don’t stack up too well with next year’s potential quarterback class. The Steelers will probably not draft a quarterback this year; instead, they’ll wait until next year’s loaded class, with guys like Bryce Young and CJ Stroud.
Plus, with the departure of Joshua Dobbs in free agency and Dwayne Haskins’ sad, unfortunate death, the Steelers now have just two quarterbacks on their roster. They will grab somebody somewhere, but when and where is up to the Steelers. If they are just looking for someone to fill a spot, then they should sign someone who is a veteran in the league. But, if they’re looking for franchise quarterbacks, taking a stab at Willis or Pickett might be the right thing for Pittsburgh.
The Steelers can go into next season with the receiver group that they have. But, with this year’s loaded class, it is likely that Pittsburgh nabs at least one receiver. Some of the more exclusive guys are Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, Jameson Williams, and Drake London. But, the Steelers can also grab an underrated receiver like Jahan Dotson, John Metchie, Treylon Burks, or George Pickens. I would expect that the Steelers select a high-quality receiver within the first two rounds, even if it is not a big-name player.
The Steelers do not need any new players along the offensive line or in the secondary, but they can always look to add depth. They could find themselves drafting Charles Cross or Daniel Faalele at offensive tackle in the early rounds. Or, they could nab guard Kenyon Green in the early rounds. There is plenty of talent, size, and strength in the offensive line draft class, so the Steelers should have no problem finding some depth.
Some players in the secondary the Steelers could draft in the later rounds are corners Kaiir Elam, Roger McCreary, or Andrew Booth. And, safeties like Jaquan Brisker and Daxton Hill are fast and versatile and are perfect fits for the Steelers defense.
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