With the 2022 new league year, the questions will be plenty for quite a while, even as the Pittsburgh Steelers spend cash and cap space and use draft picks in an effort to find answers. We don’t know who the quarterback is going to be yet—even if we have a good idea. How will the offensive line be formulated? How will the secondary develop amid changes, including to the coaching staff? What does Teryl Austin bring to the table—and Brian Flores? What will Matt Canada’s offense look like absent Ben Roethlisberger?
These sorts of uncertainties are what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
Topic Statement: The defensive line is the Steelers’ top priority in 2023.
Explanation: With the news of Stephon Tuitt’s retirement, the fair chance that Tyson Alulau may, too, retire, and the simple fact that Cameron Heyward is getting older, there is reason for concern about the near-term future of the Steelers’ defensive line.
The Steelers are a team at their best when their defensive line is among their greatest strengths. The defensive line was one of their greatest strengths as recently as 2020, when they somehow pulled out a 12-4 record beyond all reason.
Take out the majority of their starting defensive line last year and you see what you get. Stephon Tuitt’s loss is enormous. He is an incredible talent who was truly underrated by most as the 1B to Cameron Heyward’s 1A. And they don’t have another one like him on the roster.
Combine that with Tyson Alualu, who is now 35, probably in the last year of his career, and you have a team that should be looking at the defensive line in the first round, quite frankly. Yeah, they drafted DeMarvin Leal. That’s not enough.
That there is legitimate cause for concern about the defensive line’s near-term future is undeniable, but the precise timetable is up for debate. Heyward and Tuitt are ‘getting up there’, but they’re still both playing as well as they ever had. They also have depth in Leal, Chris Wormley, Montravius Adams, and Isaiahh Loudermilk.
Meanwhile, they don’t have a strong safety under contract in 2023. They have at least two or three offensive line positions that quite possibly, even likely, will still need to be upgraded a year from now. And their inside linebackers are a mess. There’s my answer. Inside linebacker.
Unless, of course, you include quarterback, which is always your biggest need until you know you have what you need.