Prior to the start of the 2021 season, many believed that Ben Roethlisberger was coming back for his final year as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ starting QB. It was mentioned during the offseason that he and C Maurkice Pouncey wanted to go out together into retirement, thus leading many to speculate that Ben could hang up his cleats after the team’s loss to the Cleveland Browns in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs. However, Ben agreed to restructure his contract and return for the 2021 season and reportedly tried to convince Pouncey to come back with him. However, Pouncey opted to retire.
With Ben expected to retire after the season, QB, got thrust to the top of Pittsburgh’s list of needs heading into the 2022 offseason. Their moves after the season ended reflected that notion, as they heavily vetted all the top prospects at the QB position in the 2022 draft class as well as signed Mitch Trubisky on the first day free agency opened. They ended up selecting hometown product Kenny Pickett #20 overall in the first round, adding him to a depth chart with Trubisky, Mason Rudolph, and fellow rookie Chris Oladokun. Defensive line and offensive tackle were other needs that were associated with the Steelers during the season and pre-draft process, but QB understandably took the #1 spot.
The question is, what is the Pittsburgh Steelers’ biggest roster need as we sit here today heading into next season?
As a draft junkie who obsesses over roster construction at all times during the year, I’ve already been looking at upcoming free agents the team will have to decide whether to re-sign or let walk and try to fill their vacancies via free agency or the draft. Much has been made about Diontae Johnson and the status of his contract this offseason. Should Pittsburgh decide to not bring him back, they realistically look to target WR next offseason despite the additions of George Pickens and Calvin Austin III via the draft this spring.
The team declined the fifth-year option of LB Devin Bush, leaving him in a one-year, prove it situation where he could either play himself into a franchise tag/new contract or fail to meet expectations and wash out with the team. Fellow first-round selection S Terrell Edmunds was brought back on a cheap one-year deal after being allowed to test the open market, likely pointing to Pittsburgh’s faith in him being the long-term solution at strong safety. Should the team not bring him back, they would have a notable hole next to Minkah Fitzpatrick on the backend of the defense.
DL Tyson Alualu in coming back on the final year of his deal after fracturing his ankle early last season, leaving many to wonder if he would be able to go another round after 2022 being 36 next spring. Larry Ogunjobi and Chris Wormley are also in the final year of their deals, meaning Pittsburgh could see a mass exodus along the defensive line depending on who they decide to retain after the season.
The projected starting offensive line is under contract for 2023, but questions remain as to whether OTs Dan Moore Jr. and Chukwuma Okorafor are the long-term answers at the bookend tackle spots after their respective struggles last season. The same can be said for G Kevin Dotson and even recent FA signing C Mason Cole who hold starting spots but shouldn’t be considered locks past 2022 at their respective positions. Backup EDGE and RB look to be the biggest immediate needs on the team as we stand here today in July, and CB could look to become a potential need depending on if the trio of Ahkello Witherspoon, Levi Wallace, and Cam Sutton can form a quality starting unit in the secondary.
Thus, it’s fair to say that Pittsburgh has several positions that could take the spot as the #1 roster need heading into next offseason. Obviously, we have a lot of time before then to see how things transpire for players on expiring contracts as well as players who need to have a big year to hold down their starting positions in 2023. It’s not as cut-and-dry as it was last year, knowing that QB would be at the top of the list with Ben’s expected retirement. Still, it can’t hurt to look ahead to keep this players/positions for Pittsburgh under the microscope to potentially give us some ‘Blue’s Clues’ as to what their intentions may be come the 2023 offseason.
What are your thoughts on the Pittsburgh Steelers roster as it currently stands today? Do you see a specific position that projects to the be the #1 need for the team in 2023? What is your reasoning for your choice? What players on the current roster must have a strong 2022 campaign to retain their starting spot for next season? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below and thanks again for reading!