Earlier in the offseason, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin talked about the emphasis we saw to close out the 2022 season when Pittsburgh found its offensive identity in the running game and complemented it by playing stingy defense. Tomlin said that the team wasn’t bashful about its intentions to return to “smash mouth” Pittsburgh Steelers football, aiding the development of its young rookie QB with a power run game and a sound defense.
Now that the 2023 NFL Draft has come and gone, Steelers GM Omar Khan is on his media tour and recently spoke to Pat Kirwan and Jim Miller on Movin’ the Chains on SiriusXM NFL Radio about Pittsburgh’s draft selections.
When asked about the emphasis Pittsburgh put on adding big people like TE Darnell Washington and DL Keeanu Benton in the draft, Khan stated that he was merely following the vision he and Tomlin developed for the future of this franchise months in advance.
“I’ll say it this way, so Coach Tomlin and I after the season, we got together and with Art Rooney II and we mapped out a plan and we have a vision for what we wanted our team to look like in ’23 and beyond,” Khan said on Movin’ the Chains. “And I’ll just say that if you look at our signings and our draft picks, I think I would say that those picks and signings are reflective of the vision that we have for the team moving forward.”
Alex Kozora published a piece shortly after the draft highlighting the Steelers’ desire to play bully ball in 2023. Well, Khan’s comments as well as earlier ones from Tomlin follow that blueprint to a tee. The team prioritized retooling the OL, adding proven veterans in Isaac Seumalo and Nate Herbig while drafting a young, physical OT in Broderick Jones. The addition of Washington can be seen as another addition to the OL. Washington often refers to himself as “The Sixth Offensive Lineman,” being a punishing blocker who also presents a matchup nightmare in the passing game.
The Steelers added to the defensive front as well, drafting Benton while signing Armon Watts and Breiden Fehoko to bolster depth. They completely revamped the ILB room, signing Cole Holcomb, Elandon Roberts, and Tanner Muse. Even the moves at DB emphasize a bully ball mentality. Long press corners like Joey Porter Jr. and Cory Trice Jr. have been added to the fold as well as free-agent signee S Keanu Neal, who serves as an enforcer in the secondary.
In what has become a pass-happy league, the Steelers appear to be zigging when everyone else is zagging. While Pittsburgh has all the weapons needed to let Pickett sling it 50 times a game, it instead wants to allow Pickett to manage the game and lean on a physical running game accompanied by a stout, turnover-seeking defense. For a young QB still finding his footing in the NFL, it’s a wise vision by Khan and Tomlin to implement, allowing Pickett to continue his development, but not putting all the team’s success and failures on his shoulders. The roster looks primed to fulfill the vision Khan and Tomlin set out to accomplish.
Now we wait in eager anticipation to see the results on the field in 2023.