The Steelers are now in their offseason after failing to reach the playoffs in 2022, coming up just a game short of sneaking in as the seventh seed. They needed help in week 18 and only got some of it, so instead they sat home and watched the playoffs with the rest of us.
On tap is figuring out how to be on the field in January and February instead of being a spectator. They started out 2-6, digging a hole that proved too deep to dig out of even if they managed to go 7-2 in the second half of the year.
Starting from the end of the regular season and leading all the way up to the beginning of the 2023 season, there are plenty of questions that need answered, starting with who will be the offensive coordinator. Which free agents will be kept? Who might be let go due to their salary? How might they tackle free agency with this new front office? We’ll try to frame the conversation in relevant ways as long as you stick with us throughout this offseason, as we have for many years.
Question: Should the Steelers be expected to make the playoffs this year?
Here’s an interesting question to ask, and I think a good time to ask it. There’s still a lot of the offseason left to go, most notably the draft, but from where we stand now, do you think the Steelers are going to make the playoffs in 2023?
This is a team that nearly made it last year, though that was largely on the strength of a 7-2 run on the back end of the season against a weaker schedule. And they still only finished 9-8, a record that is always a crapshoot as to whether or not it would be good enough in any given year.
There is good reason to believe that the Steelers should make genuine strides on offense in particular going into next season, even without regard to potential draft additions. The offensive line should be better, just through internal growth, and then you add a high-quality starter like Isaac Seumalo and that could make a big difference.
Having a full season of a healthy Najee Harris and a second-year Jaylen Warren should also yield a more consistent run game from the top of the season rather than starting at some point in the middle. And I don’t think I need to explain why it’s reasonable to expect better out of quarterback Kenny Pickett in year two after beginning his rookie season on the bench.
Defensively, I don’t think T.J. Watt is going to miss half the season again, and Larry Ogunjobi should be fully healthy. In theory, this should be the best the defensive front has looked since 2020, and that’s a very good thing.
Meanwhile, what’s going on in Baltimore? And can Deshaun Watson really regain his Pro Bowl form after all he’s been through? They may have a hard time winning to division by getting through Cincinnati, but a 10-7 or even 11-6 record is far from reasonable, and that should get them in the door.