The Pittsburgh Steelers endured quite the uneven season last year, with plenty of hills and valleys. While their 9-7-1 record was just enough to squeak into the postseason, the early start to their 2022 offseason was helpful for their NFL Draft and offseason planning.
After getting obliterated at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs, the Steelers needed to address their QB room first and foremost after the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger, who likely overstayed his welcome for a few seasons. But the Steelers were willing to commit to their franchise QB that had a career marred with off-field issues, and their rebuild was jumpstarted via the draft and free agent signings this offseason.
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Steelers Offseason Grades
Roethlisberger’s retirement at the end of January opened the door for a ton of possibilities at QB, and the team decided to address it by adding the late Dwayne Haskins, Mitch Trubisky, and 20th overall selection Kenny Pickett to a group with Mason Rudolph.
The unexpected passing of Haskins was a shock to all in the NFL community and we continue to send our thoughts and prayers to the Haskins family for their loss.
The QB room looks to be between Pickett and Trubisky, as Rudolph really doesn’t have the skill set to be a long-term option. While Trubisky’s two-year deal ($14M+) likely puts him atop the pecking order, for the time being, a strong showing in camp by the rookie Pickett certainly could change that narrative.
In the rest of the NFL Draft, the Steelers made six other selections after Pickett that produced questionable class grades.
QBs Pickett and Chris Oladokun, WRs George Pickens and Calvin Austin III, TE Connor Heyward, DL DeMarvin Leal, and LB Mark Robinson comprise the small draft class for the Steelers – of this group, Pickens and Leal have the highest ceilings, but overall not a very encouraging class moving forward.
Development is going to be key for this class, as on paper they don’t really look at all that well put together. Reports have surfaced about Pickens not having a big role until his second year in the league, Heyward is more known for his blocking acumen than his pass-catching abilities, and while Leal could be one of the steals of the draft, this group doesn’ don’t have that excitement tied to it.
Via free agency, the Steelers went after big-time OL upgrades, bringing in what looks like three starters for the 2022 season. Center Mason Cole (Vikings), tackle Chukwuma Okorafor (re-sign), and guard James Daniels (Bears) were all brought back/in for Pittsburgh, making for a strong influx of talent for a unit desperate for it.
Other additions, like CBs Ahkello Witherspoon (Steelers), Levi Wallace (Bills), LB Myles Jack (Jaguars), and DT Larry Ogunjobi (Browns), were all on shorter deals that show that the Steelers are still trying to compete in an AFC North division that is wide open for the taking.
Wallace looks to be one of the better value signings this offseason, as the former Buffalo corner has made 51 starts over the past four seasons and has recorded two interceptions each of the last three. Plugging in as the nickel CB alongside Witherspoon and Cameron Sutton, the Steelers now have one of the most underrated defensive secondaries in the AFC.
Witherspoon, Ogunjobi, and Jack are all solid depth options that will see extensive playing time this season. Witherspoon was traded to Pittsburgh last year from Seattle, Ogunjobi will be on his third AFC North team, and Jack will look to continue his 100+ tackle seasons from his days in Jacksonville.
The final big move for the Steelers was their four-year extension that safety Minkah Fitzpatrick is now on, totaling $73.61M, making him the sixth-highest paid safety in the league. Only 25, Fitzpatrick is a perfect fit for this Pittsburgh defense and will continue the pipeline of superb safety talent that has come through Pittsburgh.
The Steelers need to fully lean into a rebuild, as this team is not built well enough currently to be able to do that retooling on the fly. While players like Najee Harris, Fitzpatrick, and Diontae Johnson are solid options, this team has more holes than plugs for them, so while their offseason of adding talent made sense for their new timeline, it didn’t fully answer all questions.
Final Grade: B-