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Where the Steelers Got Better & Worse This Off-Season

Coming off a disappointing season, the Steelers made big changes. In a few places, the team got better and worse this off-season.
Steelers Off-Season

Pittsburgh has been the model for stability in the NFL over the past few decades. Changes were made to the Steelers roster and coaching staff, and the team got better and worse in a few places this off-season.

Where the Pittsburgh Steelers Got Better & Worse This Off-Season

The Front Office & Coaching: Better

Moving on from Matt Canada was a move that felt necessary going into the 2023 season. Hired in 2021 as the offensive coordinator, Canada failed to put together a unit that ranked higher than the 21st-best scoring offense in the NFL (per pro-football-reference). In both 2022 and 2023, the defense ranked in the top ten in the NFL. The offense never lived up to its counterpart and was often why the team failed to close out games. Despite having a budding star in George Pickens, Canada’s offense did not generate enough explosive plays. Najee Harris and Diontae Johnson were underutilized and Harris publically expressed frustration with the offense during Canada’s tenure.

Tabbing Arthur Smith as the new offensive coordinator is one of the best moves of the off-season. While Smith did not maximize the talent of the Atlanta Falcons offense when he was head coach, his record as a coordinator is strong. As offensive coordinator of the Tennessee Titans in 2019 and 2020, Smith engineered top-ten scoring offenses in consecutive seasons (per pro-football-reference). Under his watch, A.J. Brown emerged as a bonafide star at receiver. Derrick Henry claimed back-to-back rushing titles under Smith. While Harris and Pickens might not be on the level of Brown and Henry, Smith knows how to tap into raw potential and should be able to coax strong seasons out of the duo.

Offense: Better

Without factoring Smith into the equation, the Steelers offense looks better on paper than it did at this time last year. While Johnson has since been traded to the Carolina Panthers, Smith has two solid options at quarterback. Russell Wilson and Justin Fields have traits that fit Smith’s style of offense. In Tennessee, Smith crafted offensive attacks that featured the rushing ability of Ryan Tannehill. The mobility of Wilson might not be what it once was, but he has historically been efficient on scrambles. Fields would offer a higher ceiling for the offense, but also a lower floor. The quarterback situation could change throughout the season, but the Steelers are in good hands with Fields and Wilson competing.

While the team did not pick up Harris’ fifth-year option, there’s a good chance the Steelers get the best version of Harris under Smith’s watch. With shades of Henry in his game, Harris has the tools to revitalize his career in Pittsburgh. Several players on the Steelers offense are under pressure to perform in 2024, which could create the perfect storm for Smith and the team’s playoff hopes.

Defense: Better

Based solely on the signing of Patrick Queen, the defense looks improved on paper. Queen should also add a little fire to their rivalry with the Baltimore Ravens. Adding Payton Wilson in the draft was also a savvy move that could pay off for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Even after moving on from Cam Sutton, the door might not be closed on a reunion with Sutton and the organization. Stability in the secondary will be important for the Steelers. The team has two premier pass rushers and quality depth along the defensive line. If things come together for the offense, the defense will be less pressured to carry the team. In an ideal world, this means a more productive output by the defense in 2024. It’s not a stretch to say the defense got better heading into 2024 and should again be a bright spot for the team.

Main Photo: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports


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