The Pittsburgh Steelers have made enormous investments on the defensive side of the ball for the better part of the past decade. Really, up until last season, it hadn’t necessarily panned out. There were some busts and other complications along the way—Ryan Shazier’s injury was a major setback—but things seemed to be coming together in 2019.
That is following seven straight years of using their first-round pick on defensive players, and acquiring another first-round defender by trading their 2020 first-round pick. From Devin Bush and Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds to T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree and Cameron Heyward, not to mention Joe Haden, this unit is loaded with pedigree reflecting the resources they have poured into it.
Now, what about the offense? The group remained strong overall through 2018, but the entire unit tanked last season with Ben Roethlisberger sidelined. The quarterback play replacing him was very poor as a whole, and was a major contributor to those struggles, but how much of the issues lie elsewhere? Meanwhile, the offensive line is aging.
So with the defense now ahead of the offense again for perhaps the first time in nearly a decade—and in a year with no first-rounder—what are the Steelers’ plans in a couple of weeks to address the side of the ball that’s supposed to do the scoring?
“Honestly, I have no idea what’s going to happen. But I still think that they’ll address the offense”, Roethlisberger said during a radio interview this morning, the audio of which is now available on the team’s website.
“We’ve gone defense with our top picks for a long time now and our defense, it showed”, he went on. “Last year our defense was so fun to watch, to go against them early in the year. They’re special, they’re going to continue to get better, I think, as they grow together. I’m expected about that defense, and we’ll see what they decide to do when it comes to the draft”.
The Steelers haven’t entirely ignore the offense, of course. Over the past three drafts, they have used three late-second or early-third-round selections on wide receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, and Diontae Johnson. They have also used third-round picks on running back James Conner, quarterback Mason Rudolph, and offensive lineman Chukwuma Okorafor, who could be in competition for the starting right tackle job this year.
This year, seemingly any position on offense could potentially be up for grabs at any position. Some—like myself—will argue that quarterback is off the table. Others disagree. With the signing of Eric Ebron, it’s also less likely they will make a high investment there.
But wide receiver, anywhere along the offensive line, and potentially even running back are very much open for consideration all across the board. The former two are my priority, personally. Defense could still be favored, however, to address linebacker or safety depth, and the defensive tackle position.