The general belief is that the busiest offseason in franchise history, which saw the Pittsburgh Steelers shore up a number of holes on the roster in free agency and through the NFL Draft, has set the Black and Gold up for immediate success in 2023, which would include a playoff berth.
Pro Football Focus’ Trevor Sikkema did his best Lee Corso impression on Tuesday though: Not so fast, my friends!
Sikkema, in a piece highlighting one reason why each AFC team will or won’t make the playoffs, stated that the Steelers won’t make the playoffs. He added that the Steelers are a year away from true playoff contention due to such a young roster.
“I wouldn’t dare predict the great Mike Tomlin to finish below .500 during a regular season, but I do think the Steelers are another year away from being playoff contenders again,” Sikkema wrote for PFF.com. “Then-rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett was fantastic last season. From Week 10 on, the only quarterback with a higher passing grade than Pickett was Joe Burrow. On top of that, George Pickens is a star in the making. I also loved the Steelers’ 2023 NFL Draft class, but it’s hard to say all of those additions will pan out early on.
“Overall, it’s a good roster with star power on defense and young guys to get behind on offense. I think the Steelers are close, just a year away.”
It is a rather young roster overall, with no offensive player projected as a starter above the age of 29 years old. Projected starting left guard Isaac Seumalo and slot receiver Allen Robinson II are both 29 years old. Prior to their additions, the oldest projected starter on offense was center Mason Cole, who is 27.
The Steelers are on the older side defensively, led by 34-year-old Cameron Heyward, 32-year-old Patrick Peterson and 28-year-old T.J. Watt. Top to bottom it’s a relatively young roster, though age is just a number and experience matters much more.
The Steelers did a lot of growing up last season, especially down the stretch going 7-2, getting back into playoff contention after a disastrous 2-6 start. That experience gained last season, along with playing an easier schedule, should help the Steelers be in playoff contention once again.
But it’s certainly reasonable to think they might be a year away, like Sikkema points out.
The AFC North is absolutely loaded, as is the AFC in general. Questions and concerns about offensive coordinator Matt Canada, the second-year jump for Kenny Pickett and George Pickens, and the depth at key positions defensive at slot corner, outside linebacker and inside linebacker could make it difficult to get to the playoffs in 2023, especially if injuries hit those positions hard again.