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? How might they tackle the NFL Draft? 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: Will the Steelers’ edge depth be better in 2023?
The fact that the Steelers brought in Bud Dupree for a free agent visit, even though they didn’t end up signing him—and may not have even offered him a contract—told us that they know they need to get better behind their starters on the edge than they were last year.
They actually don’t even have any of their backup outside linebackers from last year anymore. Malik Reed left in free agency, the Steelers presumably having no interest in bringing him back, and they released Jamir Jones after he was arrested.
They added Quincy Roche, and in the fourth round of the 2023 NFL Draft they selected Nick Herbig, who was an edge in college. The Steelers came out after the pick and talked about him as an edge, though subsequently they seemed to soften slightly by opening the door for him to be able to play inside.
But here’s the thing: what if T.J. Watt or Alex Highsmith misses a bunch of games again this season? Would they trust either Roche or Herbig to start there for an extended period of time? And if they don’t, and they realize that by, say, mid-August, will they add somebody else to the mix?
One thing the Steelers haven’t been shy about is adding some finishing touches to their roster in August when they feel like they’re missing a piece. Of course, the results of those dealings have varied greatly. But sitting here right now, do you believe they will be better prepared behind Watt and Highsmith than they were last year?
My guess if that if there were a long-term injury, that would mean a lot of playing time instead for DeMarvin Leal. But would that be as an “outside linebacker” or as part of a front with four down linemen? Would the distinction even matter…and would it be an improvement?