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Steelers Roster A Work In Progress: Post-Draft Needs

The Pittsburgh Steelers have made significant roster changes for the 2024 season, bringing in new faces like Russell Wilson and Patrick Queen. Their aggressive moves in both free agency and the draft, highlight the new sense of urgency reinforcing the franchise’s core principles. Following the completion of the 2024 NFL Draft, the question now turns to what post-draft roster adjustments the Steelers need to implement to solidify their position for success?

2024 Steelers Draft Summnary

  1. Troy Fautanu, Offensive Tackle – Selected 20th overall, Fautanu is expected to bolster the offensive line with his top-tier pass-blocking skills.
  2. Zach Frazier, Center – Picked 51st overall, Frazier’s low pressure rate from college is anticipated to translate effectively to the NFL.
  3. Roman Wilson, Wide Receiver – His selection adds depth to the receiving corps, addressing immediate needs.
  4. Payton Wilson, Linebacker – Chosen 98th overall, he is another addition to the Steelers’ linebacker unit.
  5. Mason McCormick, Guard – With a draft position of 119th overall, McCormick’s potential as a starter is not high and could be needed depth up front. 
  6. Logan Lee, Defensive End – His selection in the sixth round (178th overall) adds depth to the defensive line.
  7. Ryan Watts, Defensive Back – Also a sixth-round pick (195th overall), Watts is expected to contribute to the secondary.

Assessment of Offensive Line Post-Draft

The Steelers have demonstrated a clear strategy to strengthen their offensive line, selecting three in the early rounds. The trio of Fautanu, Frazier, and McCormick joins forces with 2023 first-round pick Broderick Jones and established guard Isaac Seumalo to form a foundational core for the Steelers’ offensive line. Fans will be counting on Seumalo, known for his mentorship capabilities and relationship-building with younger players. Incorporating these draft picks, check off a revitalized offensive line that aims to protect their quarterback and enhance their ground game. Things that came in a rarity over the previous three seasons. As the team continues to make post-draft adjustments, the integration of these young talents will be crucial for Arthur Smith’s first season as the Offensive Coordinator.

Evaluating the Wide Receiver Corps Post-Draft

If all is set in the trenches, the next step is enhancing their wide receiver group. With a notable depth in the draft for wide receivers, the Steelers had a rich pool to select from. The wide receiver room is getting a major makeover in the 2024 offseason, and fans remain worried about lack of production. The Pittsburgh Steelers’ wide receiver group for the 2024 season centers around George Pickens, who is the clear number-one receiver after leading the team with 1,140 receiving yards last year. The departure of Diontae Johnson has left the team searching for a solid number-two option. As of right now nobody knows who that will be. 

WR Acquisitions 

The Steelers have brought in several veterans, including Van Jefferson, Scotty Miller, and Quez Watkins, alongside the returning Calvin Austin III. They also added rookie Roman Wilson, who is expected to step up immediately. Wilson, a third-round pick, has shown promise with his blocking skills and versatility at Michigan. Despite Van Jefferson’s past struggles with injuries and consistency, his familiarity with the new O.C. Arthur Smith’s system could give him an edge in making the roster. The Steelers have a versatile wide receiver group with different strengths. Pickens as a vertical threat, Wilson likely in the slot, and Austin providing speed on the outside. While the current roster lacks a proven number-two receiver, additional acquisitions efforts could be made before camp.

Defensive Line Depth

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ defensive line and pass-rushing group for the 2024 season aims to rebound strongly, especially after facing challenges due to injuries to key players like Cameron Heyward and T.J. Watt in 2023. They just never seemed to have it all together. Whenever one was healthy, the other wasn’t. Heyward remains a cornerstone of the DL, but they will need even more support from Larry Ogunjobi and Keeanu Benton. Cam Heyward is approaching his 35th birthday, raising concerns about long-term sustainability at this critical position.

On the edge, T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith form an elite pass-rushing duo, with Nick Herbig offering depth and versatility. Outside of Herbig, no name has emerged as a reliable rusher. This may be addressed when players are cut before or after training camp. The veteran pass rushing market should grow during that time period. To mitigate injury risks and ensure reliability, the Steelers have to see which players come available to add depth. This approach aims to maintain a high level of performance regardless of injuries. 

Safety & Nickel Positions

The safety positions also presents issues, particularly with aging players lacking foot speed. Damontae Kazee and Keanu Neal, the current options at strong safety, have not been solidified in some time. This has led the Steelers to consider exploring the free agent and trade market to find a suitable partner for All-Pro Minkah Fitzpatrick. Every Steelers fan has a dream pairing safety with Minkah. Only one could hope. 

The nickelback position sees non familiar faces. As of today Darius Rush, Josiah Scott and Thomas Graham Jr., are competing for that spot, and they are taking fliers on under the radar guys. In the 2023 season, Chandon Sullivan played 422 snaps as a slot cornerback for the Steelers, leading the team. Patrick Peterson also contributed, playing 208 snaps in the slot. Both are currently not on the roster as of today. They have to find someone who can thrive in this under the radar position against the pass-heavy offenses in the NFL.

Cornerback Gaps

Joey Porter Jr. and Donte Jackson are expected to start at left cornerback and right cornerback, respectively, bringing a mix of youth and veteran presence. Porter Jr. has quickly risen as a key player, while Jackson’s experience contributes significantly to the secondary’s strength. The Steelers are relying on Donte Jackson and sixth-round pick Ryan Watts III, which is scary enough to think about. The first highlight I saw when the Steelers signed Jackson was him getting cooked by AB.

For a glimmer a hope, Cory Trice Jr has returned to the field for the teams offseason program. I’d say have a cautious optimism surrounding his potential impact for the 2024 season. After being sidelined with a torn ACL during his rookie year, fans have no idea what they will see from him. Trice, chosen in the seventh round of the 2023 NFL Draft from Purdue, brings a knack for interceptions and good size on the perimeter. His college stats boasted 106 total tackles, five interceptions, and two of those returned for touchdowns. Maybe he can be the diamond in the rough.

Notable Contract Situations

The Steelers’ management will need to navigate financial constraints effectively. Declining the 5th-year option on Najee Harris’ and Justin Fields rookie contracts opens up cap space, potentially allowing for strategic acquisitions that bolster the team’s depth across key positions. That doesn’t come without its hurdles. Cam Heyward, who never misses offseason programs, is now seeking a contract extension. Hopefully, both sides will cooperate and check this off the to-do list. He is already set to have $22.5 million count against the cap. Without a healthy Heyward this defense will struggle immediately. 

Enhancing Team Performance

As the Steelers move past the draft, the focus shifts to refining the roster to ensure it is well-poised for success in the upcoming season. The strategic polishing of the roster is up to General Manager Omar Khan, with July training camp creeping closer. There is now a clear mandate to break the playoff win drought since 2016, the Steelers are under considerable pressure to perform. With what seems to feel like an entire makeover to the roster, fans can feel the urgency from the front office. From free agency, to an excellent draft class, the Steelers addressed bullet point that has fans excited for September.


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