With the Steelers’ 2023 offseason underway following a disappointing season that came up just short of reaching the playoffs, it’s time to begin reloading, through the free agency process, through the draft, and perhaps even through trade.
This is now a young team on the offensive side of the ball, though one getting older on defense. Both sides could stand to be supplemented robustly, including in the trenches—either one. Changes have been made to the coaching staff, even if not all of the desired ones, as the roster continues to renew with the weeks ticking by.
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: At least two rookies will be day-one starters for the Steelers in 2023.
Explanation: With seven draft picks, and three in the top 49, the Steelers have a good chance of acquiring some premium talent later this week. Their recent history has favored starting rookies, but the front office has also done a lot this offseason to plug holes, and they have no obvious needs for an immediate starter.
This is easy, and it’s even easy to name the positions—possibly even where they will be drafted. A rookie offensive tackle and cornerback will both start opening day for the Steelers in 2023, and they will likely be drafted in the first and second round, in whichever order.
With the way the offseason has gone, and the structure of this draft class, things are setting up for the Steelers to get a tackle and a cornerback drafted early on this week. These are two positions that could cater to an immediate starter with the present options available.
There’s also a possibility of a rookie safety starting, if they coveted one early enough. Less likely, but not impossible, for an inside linebacker. And a nose tackle is certainly possible, a position that doesn’t necessarily have to be addressed early to get an immediate contributor. This team has had a lot of rookie starters lately, even if not always on opening day, so there’s no reason to think that changes.
With the question being specifically the start of the season, however, there is more room for debate. Not even Kenny Pickett started the season opener last year. George Pickens did, but his role was limited. And as mentioned, there are no starting jobs with screaming vacancy signs.
If the Steelers were looking to trade up for a tackle, which has been rumored, then you could probably pencil that in. But I wouldn’t bet on that happening. And if they sit and wait for a Darnell Wright, then we could very well see Chukwuma Okorafor and Dan Moore Jr. starting the opener.
Likewise, a cornerback would still have to earn his way onto the field with Patrick Peterson and Levi Wallace and a bevy of diverse options for sub-package defenders, including three-safety looks that the Steelers like to employ. Sure, two rookie starters from the outset is a possibility, but so is one—or even none, even if they move into the starting lineup at some point during the season.