Steelers Slide In At 13th In Power Rankings, O-Line ‘Most Obvious Area Of Need’’s Dan Hanzus is the king of power rankings and offered his first crack at what 2023 could look like. In his latest list released Tuesday morning, he has the Pittsburgh Steelers 13th overall. Explaining why, he writes:

“The Steelers closed strong in 2022. Could a successful offseason make them a contender in the AFC North? The clearest path to a true Pittsburgh resurgence is building around Kenny Pickett, who won six of his final eight starts as a rookie. The most obvious area of need is the offensive line, leaking for several years dating back to Ben Roethlisberger’s final seasons with the team. Better protection could mean big things, not just for the quarterback, but also running back Najee Harris and wide receivers Diontae Johnson and George Pickens.”

Not showing much love to the offensive line on Valentine’s Day. But overall, it’s an optimistic tone and ranking for Pittsburgh that falls right in the middle of other recent ones. Over the past two days, Sports Illustrated ranked the Steelers at #12 while ESPN slotted them at #14. 

Pittsburgh’s strong 7-2 finish certainly is one reason why the Steelers appear in the top half of all these lists. Not to mention the fact Mike Tomlin seemingly always finds a way to make his team competitive even if the frustrations of not winning a playoff game since 2016 are very real.

Arguably, the Steeler’s biggest area of need falls on the other side of the ball, not the o-line. Pittsburgh’s defensive line is full of question marks heading into the offseason. Though the Steelers’ run defense bounced back in a big way, tied 7th-best after finishing dead last in 2021, the d-line could look much different next year. Larry Ogunjobi is a pending free agent and there’s been little chatter about him returning. Chris Wormley is also a free agent who tore his ACL in Week 14, casting serious doubt on his Week One availability. Depth behind is unproven in youngsters Isaiahh Loudermilk, who failed to make a jump in Year Two, and rookie DeMarvin Leal doesn’t profile as an every-down lineman who can bang around against the run. In the middle, NT Tyson Alualu won’t be back while Montravius Adams’ season was more cold than hot, though his play improved a bit by year’s end.

Still, there will be consideration to improve the offensive line. If a stud offensive tackle can fall to #17, someone like Ohio State’s Paris Johnson or Georgia’s Broderick Jones, it’ll be tempting for the Steelers to make the move. Perhaps Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski slips over concerns about his size and NFL fit, a tackle or guard prospect for Pittsburgh. There’s no guarantee Pittsburgh runs it back with the same five offensive linemen as last year though the odds are higher than what Hanzus is suggesting.

Around the AFC North, the Cincinnati Bengals grab the #3 spot in these rankings while the Baltimore Ravens come in at #11, though their future is tied to what happens with QB Lamar Jackson. The Cleveland Browns fall all the way down to #21 coming off another disappointing season. The Super Bowl champs Kansas City Chiefs are in the top spot while the Indianapolis Colts are dead last.

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