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ESPN Analyst Reveals Projections on Steelers Offense and Defense for 2024

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Russell Wilson Steelers Quarterback

Mike Clay of ESPN released his annual projections for the 2024 season, and he envisions the Pittsburgh Steelers offense being one of the worst units, while he has the defense tabbed as elite. That’s been the calling card for the Steelers over the last few seasons. The offense doesn’t put up a whole lot of points, but the defense is often dependable when it comes to sacks, turnovers and points allowed.

Clay has the Steelers offense projected to rank as the 27th-best, while the defense is slotted at No. 4. Overall, he has the Steelers ranked as the 20th-best team in the NFL.

Only the Cleveland Browns, Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers defensive units ranked ahead of the Steelers. On the offensive side, the Steelers were ahead of only the New York Giants, New England Patriots, Las Vegas Raiders, Denver Broncos and Washington Commanders.

The Steelers completely revamped their quarterback room this offseason by adding Russell Wilson, Justin Fields and Kyle Allen. Kenny Pickett, Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph combined for just 13 touchdown passed last season. Over the last two seasons, the former Steelers quarterbacks compiled just 25 touchdown passes.

Wilson had 26 touchdown passes alone in Denver last season, but Clay sees him taking a step back and tossing just 15 touchdowns coupled with nine interceptions in 13 games in 2024. He has Fields throwing five touchdowns and 3 interceptions in four games. Overall, he has Wilson and Fields combining for a 20-12 touchdown-interception ratio this upcoming season.

The quarterback room is the cheapest in the NFL. It helps that Wilson is playing for the veteran minimum and is on the books with Denver for nearly $38 million. The Steelers should have a strong running game with the offensive line bolstered and new offensive coordinator Arthur Smtih’s as the play-caller, but there’s still a lot to be desired with the Steelers wide receivers room.

As it stands now, their WR corps is a bottom-tier group. And it is reflected in their cap hits, too. Pittsburgh has the second-lowest wide receiver cap hits ($11.7 million) in the entire NFL, according to Warren Sharp of Sharp Football.

The defense should be solid upfront with Cam Heyward, Keeanu Benton, Larry Ogunjobi on the defensive line and T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith at outside linebacker. The Steelers gave linebacker Patrick Queen the largest free-agent contract in Steelers’ history by almost $5 million annually. They also drafted Chuck Bednarik Award winner Payton Wilson in the third round. That should give them a nice trio at linebacker with Queen, Wilson and Elandon Roberts.

The Steelers acquired cornerback Donte Jackson in the Diontae Johnson trade with Carolina. He’s slotted to be the starter opposite of Joey Porter Jr. The Steelers still have question marks at slot corner, but perhaps Anthony Averett could fill that role.

Former Steelers free safety Ryan Clark believes that Jackson should at least try to play inside at slot cornerback.

“Joey Porter Jr., Young Peezy, could be a star at corner. He’s gonna travel with the No. 1, you add Donte Jackson to that,” Clark said in an appearance on the All Things Covered Podcast. “I want to see defensively if they say ‘Donte, we’re gonna move you inside as well. Let you play inside.’ Because they were searching for that person to be there.”

Free agent signing DeShon Elliott is expected to be a safety pair with All-Pro Minkah Fitzpatrick.

During an interview with a select group of Pittsburgh reporters at the NFL owner’s meetings in Orlando in late March, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin touched on what made Elliott an attractive free agent signing.

“Again, we have familiarity with DeShon and just got a lot of respect for how he plays the game, the toughness component,” Tomlin said. “We felt like he would be a good asset in addition to our secondary. Good tackler, good communicator. There’s a lot that’s attractive about him and we’re excited to get to work with him.”

 

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Edward Carmichael
Edward Carmichael
May 15, 2024 9:56 am

as a true Steelers fan, I just hope Arthur Smith is a much better offensive coordinator than Matt Canada because I felt Calvin Austin lll, Darnell Washington wasn’t getting the ball thrown to them enough and Pat Freirmuth wasn’t getting his regular catches up the middle and the new and young Steelers offensive line shuold be moving the ball better running and passing next the new staring ILB’s shuold be ILB Payton Wilson and Patrick Queen as for the secondary the starting CB’s CB Joey Porter Jr. and CB Ryan Watts for now until both Cory Trice Jr. Darius Rush