The Pittsburgh Steelers enter the offseason with a fair amount of optimism regarding their outlook in 2023. They finished the season 7-2 after their bye week, seeing the defense return to form while having young offensive players like QB Kenny Pickett, WR George Pickens, RB Najee Harris, and TE Pat Freiermuth show strides of growth and maturation throughout 2022. However, the team must address some key holes on the roster with free agency and the draft approaching this spring, having several names slatted to hit free agency and glaring weaknesses that should be addressed.
Bleacher Report’s Gary Davenport recently published an article highlighting the Biggest Missing Piece of NFL’s Fringe Contenders in 2023 Free Agency, Trades or Draft. In this article, Davenport dubs offensive tackle as the biggest need that Pittsburgh should address this offseason.
“The Pittsburgh Steelers finished the 2022 season on a high note, winning six of seven to keep Mike Tomlin’s streak of non-losing seasons intact,” Davenport said regarding the Steelers. “But while that hot finish Pittsburgh offers some reason for optimism heading into the offseason, the Steelers remain a team with flaws. And the biggest of those flaws isn’t new. The offensive line has long been an issue in the Steel City, and while that unit was better in 2022 than the year before, starting tackles Dan Moore Jr. and Chukwuma Okorafor are average players on a good day and liabilities on a bad one.”
Davenport lists Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski, Tennessee’s Darnell Wright, and Syracuse’s Matthew Bergeron as potential targets for the Steelers in the 2023 NFL Draft. He mentioned that the Steelers would likely have to address the position in the draft due to their current lack of cap space. While this may be the case as we stand here today, if you have listened to the Dave Bryan at any point on the podcast, you know that Pittsburgh can massage the cap to be able to sign outside free agents if they choose to do so.
However, going out and signing to Orlando Brown in free agency may not be good practice given his projected market value and the other needs Pittsburgh needs to address on the roster. Thus, going through the draft to bring a young, cost-effective OT appears to be the move.
Regarding the names listed above, all are sensitive possibilities for Pittsburgh depending on their respective draft selection. Skoronski is possibly the most pro-ready OT prospect in the class and could be in-play at #17 overall. Darnell Wright is more of a right tackle based on his skill set and could kick inside to guard at the next level to have the best pro career. Bergeron is another potential guard convert that excels in the running game and has shown flashes of being a good pass protector but needs more refinement in that area to be considered a high-end starter at the NFL level on the blindside.
While I agree with Davenport’s statement that Dan Moore Jr. and Okorafor being average players on a good day and liable on a bad one, but I personally don’t see Pittsburgh targeting a tackle extremely high this spring. Sure, if they feel that a player like Skoronski is a 10-year starter at LT, they may pull the trigger. However, this team has shown a commitment to Okorafor and Moore who have both shown signs of development the last two seasons as Pittsburgh wants to see if that trend continues.
Instead, Pittsburgh may more likely address ILB with several players slated to hit free agency or defensive line with a drastic need to add starters and depth to the trenches. Cornerback is also a plausible option as they lack a true CB1 on the roster that can cover Ja’Marr Chase and Amari Cooper week-to-week. Offensive tackle can be improved on this coming season, but based on the other needs on this roster, I would contend that it isn’t Pittsburgh’s biggest missing piece.