PITTSBURGH, Pa. — In Art Rooney’s end-of-season press conference, he acknowledged that the 2023 season was full of “ups-and-downs” but there were many reasons for optimism moving forward. One of those components was the rookie class and because of those guys, Rooney stated that he feels as if the Steelers are in a better position now than they were at this time last year.
“I think it is fair to say that I do feel we are closer this year, at this stage of the game, than we were at this point last year,” Rooney said. “As I mentioned, I thought we had a really solid rookie class. We had a few guys that really stepped in and are solid starters for the future.”
Rooney did not lie because the rookie class made major plays, played many important snaps, and for the most part showed that the seven guys that they selected will continue to be a force on the Steelers roster moving forward. The 2023 season saw guys like Broderick Jones, Joey Porter Jr., Keeanu Benton, and Darnell Washington combine for 36 starts.
Aside from the four starters, Nick Herbig appeared in 16 games and made multiple key defensive plays. Spencer Anderson, a seventh-round pick, was a mainstay on the active roster and played sparingly on special teams. Fellow seventh-rounder Cory Trice was on the fast track to not only making the active roster but also playing valuable snaps in the secondary before he suffered a season-ending injury in the summer.
While it was ultimately the rookies’ level of play that shined a ray of optimism on the future of the Steelers, Rooney credited general manager Omar Khan and his team for identifying and acquiring such players.
“I think Omar and his team have done a good job,” Rooney said. “I think we had a good draft last year and found some key players that hopefully will be in key spots for us for a long time to come.”
If Khan and the Steelers can keep stacking successful draft classes for years to come, the black-and-gold can find their way back to the big game sooner rather than later.