The Biggest Difference Between The 2022 And 2023 Steelers? A Plan

It’s understandable, it’s forgivable, but the 2022 Pittsburgh Steelers were a rudderless ship. They weren’t the Steelers. They were just a collection of people and football players in a building. It was a year of transition. New quarterback. New general manager. Not a Dennis Eckersley hodgepodge of nothingness but it certainly didn’t feel like a team with a direction. There was no compass. Instead, Pittsburgh spent the first half of 2022 wandering around a forest, getting lost, doubling back, trying to find someone to ask directions.

And 2023? Totally different story. I can’t tell you what the destination will be, the Steelers still faces a tough road ahead, but hey, at least they’ve got a map.

That’s the change in this team compared to the one a year ago. Some of it was natural, some of it was structural. Ben Roethlisberger had just retired and the Steelers were entering a new age. It always seemed fair to compare them to the New England Patriots the year Tom Brady left for Tampa. The Patriots had to figure out who the heck they were after 90% of their identity just walked out the door. And even Bill Belichick proved mortal, going 7-9 and finishing third in the AFC East.

And in Pittsburgh, some of it felt like an own-goal. Kevin Colbert was a great GM but not allowing Omar Khan and Andy Weidl to step into power until after the 2022 draft, effectively meant they couldn’t build the team in their vision until this year.

The good news is they have. That idea began to form after the bye week last season when the 2-6 Steelers, blown out by the Philadelphia Eagles, pushed the reset button. They got back to basics and finished the season 7-2 by running the ball, controlling the clock, and winning low-scoring affairs. It wasn’t efficient but it was effective.

Pittsburgh used the offseason to build upon that. As spoken by virtually the entire coaching staff and front office, including Khan, there was a meeting of the minds between him, Mike Tomlin, and Art Rooney II after the season. And they figured out the type of team they wanted to build. They’re returning to bully-ball. Adding big offensive linemen, a 1-of-1 type of tight end, and some long and physical corners confirmed a literal “impose our will” mentality that’ll make your grandpa tear up.

Maybe it’s the right strategy. Maybe it’s not. It’s certainly counter to the direction the majority of the league is headed, and I can appreciate the zig-not-zag mentality. But at least it’s a plan. A year ago, the Steelers were the youngest offense in football, Mitch Trubisky was just keeping the seat warm for Kenny Pickett, and Pittsburgh had no identity. That isn’t just me spouting off. Repeatedly, the players said it. From Chase Claypool to Zach Gentry to Najee Harris, they didn’t know what kind of team they were supposed to be.

That won’t be a problem this year. And it’s an encouraging sign. It doesn’t guarantee Pittsburgh’s offense will produce, and don’t go expecting them to be a 30-point per game team, but their gameplan is clear and coherent. And that sure counts for something.

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