If 7-7-7 is lucky, then 3-3-3 is cause for uncertain with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Even after a strong draft and impressive and busy offseason, there’s still a handful of spots that are worth watching come training camp. Areas where there will be real battles this summer as the Steelers sort out what they have and what else they might need. This isn’t necessarily a list of the biggest needs, you won’t find slot corner here, for example, but third-string positions where Pittsburgh doesn’t have a clear favorite.
Last year, the discussion was where Kenny Pickett would slot into the veteran sandwich of Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph. There’s zero questions about the top two this time around, it’s Pickett followed by Trubisky, but the #3 job is completely open. Right now, the only other arm on the roster is UDFA Tanner Morgan, once a bright college star whose light quickly burned out with two poor final college seasons. The only other QB on Pittsburgh’s radar is Hunter Johnson, a rookie minicamp invite, and once five-star recruit who threw only six passes last season.
Based on those names, it doesn’t look like the Steelers have their #3 on the team right now. Perhaps they look outside the organization, the XFL still seems viable (A.J. McCarron makes a lot of sense) to get somebody with a bit of NFL and a fair amount of professional experience would be ideal for a Steelers team comfortable with Mason Rudolph third-string last year. Of course, Rudolph remains a free agent but the odds of a reunion seem low. Nick Foles was just released and that’s another thought, I suppose, knowing whatever name they land on won’t be exciting. Unless the team plans to carry just two quarterbacks, which would highly unusual for Mike Tomlin.
Far from a pressing need but fans are going to feel differently if something happens to Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren. Pittsburgh’s backfield is no longer a one-man show, a true committee approach about a quarter-way into last season. If Harris or Warren get injured, likely over a long 17-game season, the one leg of the Steelers’ chair will be off. And it’ll make whoever that #3 is suddenly very relevant.
Benny Snell remains a free agent and while he could return, the Steelers have out his #24 to Joey Porter Jr., who won’t be changing that number like later round rookies who could switch ahead of 2023. Snell could re-sign and pick a new digit but it feels like the door is closing. What’s left is a hodgepodge of Anthony McFarland, Master Teague, and Jason Huntley. McFarland lacks the special teams value a typical Steelers’ #3 back tends to have while Huntley has only 18 career carries and Teague zero. Teague might bring the most intrigue here but it’s truly an open competition when the team shows up for camp. Another low-level veteran name thrown into the mix wouldn’t hurt my feelings. Malcolm Brown is one name I’d throw out there with size and special teams experience.
This #3 is a pretty consequential position that doesn’t have much more clarity compared to the start of the offseason. Nick Herbig was added to the mix in the fourth round and while initially touted as an outside linebacker, Omar Khan and Andy Weidl have floated the idea he’ll play inside linebacker, too. DeMarvin Leal’s future is uncertain and even the Steelers seemed like they lacked a clear plan for him pre-draft.
Former sixth-round pick Quincy Roche was brought back and UDFA David Perales is interesting but the position feels inadequate for how important it is from a rotational and injury protection standpoint. Pittsburgh could go back to the well of adding a veteran and hope he’s happy with his playing time.