The Pittsburgh Steelers loss was a tale of two teams. The Philadelphia Eagles are 7-0 with an MVP-caliber quarterback, a dominant offensive line, and a shutdown defense at all three levels. The Steelers are now 2-6 with a struggling rookie quarterback, an offensive line with more holes than a cheese grater, and a defense clearly missing their DPOY. Which positions on the Steelers roster need an influx of talent to be competitive in a star-studded AFC?
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Pittsburgh Steelers Roster Exposed For Lack of Talent
Offensive Line Woes
The Steelers came into the year with a less-than-ideal offensive line situation. Pro Football Network does a tier-based system for ranking offensive lines. The top tier is one, the lowest is four. The Steelers have not even sniffed the third tier all year. Pittsburgh general manager Omar Khan made an off-season push for offensive line help and the results are subpar. James Daniels was an upgrade at guard over any players last year. Mason Cole was a fringe starter for the Arizona Cardinals and Minnesota Vikings before signing in Pittsburgh. Kevin Dotson was supposed to give the offensive line the bruiser it needed after returning from injury.
Instead, all three of these acquisitions are bridge players at best and the team is hurting. With a first-round running back and a concerted effort to run the ball, the Steelers are still 27th in rush yards per game. Look for the Steelers to focus their efforts up front in the 2023 off-season.
Defense Shows Its Age
Whether a result of the Eagles seemingly unstoppable playmakers or Jalen Hurts on an MVP campaign, the Steelers could not stop anything on defense. Watt is still trying to work his way back from a pectoral and knee injury and was not able to play against the Eagles. The Steelers have been able to rely on the game-wrecking ability of T.J. Watt and some splash plays from Minkah Fitzpatrick in the past, but those two need some help. The defensive line has struggled to stop the run and does not have the youth to say they can improve. The average age across the defensive front is 32 and it might be time to move on from the veterans.
This year has to be about talent identification for the younger players to see who is part of the long-term plan. Unfortunately, at 33, Cam Heyward is not part of that plan. His voice in the locker room is valuable for the locker room culture, but his snap count could be reduced. Instead, the Steelers could rotate in Loudermilk and Davis to evaluate their value past this season.
It took about seven plays for the Eagles to realize they had a talent mismatch on the outside. As a result, A.J. Brown had a career day recording six catches for 154 yards and three touchdowns. Each of these touchdowns just exposed the Steelers lack of talent in the secondary. Fitzpatrick is an elite, rangy, cover-the-whole-field type of player who is being asked to actually cover the whole field. Outside of him, the Steelers have three or four secondary pieces that are just okay.
AJ BROWN. THREE FIRST HALF TOUCHDOWNS.
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Cameron Sutton, Ahkello Witherspoon, and Terrell Edmunds are all good, but not great, players. A.J. Brown exposed each of their weaknesses in Philadelphia. Sutton and Witherspoon are not lockdown corners by any stretch of the imagination. Sutton lacks the size (just under six feet tall) and top-end speed (4.52 40 yard dash) to lock down the best of the best. Witherspoon has all of the measurables but has not produced the results to back them up. He has lacked the discipline in coverage to stay with top route runners. Additionally, against Miami in week seven the secondary dropped four interceptions. In a close game, that is the difference between a win and a sad bus ride home. Because of this, Pittsburgh needs a true cover corner and can add one with their projected top-five pick in 2023.