The Pittsburgh Steelers have had an active start to the new NFL league year as they try and return to meeting “The Standard.” Pittsburgh beefed up its offensive line, signed a veteran cornerback, completely re-did its inside linebacker room, and made sure its defensive line retained some stability. Despite this, CBS Sports’ Jordan Dajani does not believe the Steelers are one of the better teams in the AFC.
Dajani on Tuesday ranked each AFC team after the beginning of free agency and has the Steelers ranked 11th, notably behind the Cleveland Browns and Denver Broncos.
“Mike Tomlin kept his “.500 streak” alive with a 9-8 record in 2022, and you can’t help but be intrigued by this young offense,” wrote Dajani. “(Kenny) Pickett, Najee Harris, Pat Freiermuth and George Pickens are all talented, and maybe Calvin Austin III surprises some people in Year 2. Best believe fans are hoping for more from Matt Canada. The AFC North is incredibly tough, however, and it’s difficult to nail down where exactly Pittsburgh fits.”
The Steelers’ offense was bad last year, but down the stretch they found their formula in pounding the rock. This offseason general manager Omar Khan and head coach Mike Tomlin have decided they like that formula and committed to it by bringing in two offensive linemen, including Eagles guard Isaac Seumolo, who was one of the best offensive linemen on the market.
Dajani was a huge fan of the Seumolo signing and the signing of former Washington Commanders linebacker Cole Holcomb.
“The Steelers made two great additions in free agency with former Eagles offensive guard Isaac Seumalo and Washington Commanders linebacker Cole Holcomb,” he wrote. “Both players will make immediate impacts on offense and defense, respectively, and Kenny Pickett is surely excited to have a talented guard to help keep him upright.”
All the signings Pittsburgh made should improve the team. In fact, Pittsburgh has historically been at its best when it plays smashmouth football and controls time of possession with a dominant defense and run game. Since the Steelers went away from that in the 2010s, they have only won three playoff games. Going back to that formula should bring success.
Putting Pittsburgh behind the Browns and Broncos is questionable to say the least. Steelers rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett looked better than both Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson and Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson last season. There is no guarantee that Watson or Wilson return to pre-2022 form, and with the additions to the offensive line, Pittsburgh’s roster can go toe-to-toe with both Cleveland and Denver. I would certainly take it over Denver’s.
Obviously, we still don’t know what Pickett will be, but right now Pittsburgh is being built to beat teams up with a great ground game and elite defense. Pickett doesn’t to be great for this Steelers team to be good and make the playoffs. Both Watson and Wilson have to be great given how big their contracts are and there is no guarantee they will even be good.
Pittsburgh has made some great moves so far this offseason andstill have the NFL Draft to get even better. While I won’t to go as far to say the Steelers will compete for a Super Bowl or be playoff locks this season, they deserve more respect than being ranked the 11th-best team in the AFC.