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Center, Tackle, Quarterback? Ranking Steelers 2024 Offseason Needs

Center, quarterback, tackle, cornerback? Which are the most pressing of the Pittsburgh Steelers 2024 offseason needs?



Steelers Draft Khan Tomlin
Pittsburgh Steelers had coach Mike Tomlin and general manager Omar Khan during the 2023 NFL Draft. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

The Pittsburgh Steelers, like every NFL team, have several needs entering the offseason. From immediate starting needs to starters on the roster they’d like to upgrade to places where they need to add depth, Omar Khan and company have a lot of work to do this offseason.

But what is the most pressing of those needs? Just ahead of the NFL Combine, let’s rank the importance of the Steelers’ needs.


Don’t get too excited.

The Steelers aren’t even looking for a starting quarterback, as has been reported elsewhere, and as I have confirmed. They probably aren’t going to trade for Justin Fields or sign Kirk Cousins or Baker Mayfield.

They will bring in someone less expensive, with experience, to push Kenny Pickett, and that could be Mason Rudolph — but probably not. More likely, it will be someone like Ryan Tannehill, Marcus Mariota or Sam Darnold.

The Steelers have committed themselves to giving Kenny Pickett another shot at the starting quarterback job, and while that means they aren’t looking to fill this need with urgency at the moment, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

The club will want to provide insurance in case Pickett fails to improve on his first two seasons. That will likely come in the form of said veteran. They will also likely want to take another swing at a young player with upside, probably in the third day of the 2024 NFL Draft.

Those moves aren’y likely to rectify the Steelers’ starting quarterback needs in 2024. If Pickett doesn’t pan out, they’ll probably be addressing this one again next year.


Starting center Mason Cole struggled mightily in 2023, developing snapping issues in addition to having a hard time executing his pass protection assignments. It was a surprising downturn for Cole, who played solidly if unspectacularly in 2022, and did so while nursing a foot injury all season. The Steelers shored up his left side with the addition of Isaac Seumalo through free agency, but somehow, Cole had his worst season in years.

He paid for it with his job, as Cole was released on Friday.

Like tackle and corner, the Steelers are blessed with this need matching a prodigious draft class. There could be three centers taken in the first round in 2024 after only two were taken in the entire draft in 2023. 
There are also free agent options, like Aaron Brewer from the Tennessee Titans, who got his start in Arthur Smith’s scheme.

Center is not a premium value position. If a team drafts one in the first round, and the player doesn’t turn out to be a multi-year All-Pro-type of player, it’s probably a bad pick in hindsight.

But with a strong class of potential plug-in starters, the Steelers could certainly be in position to do just that. The team’s history of an elite level of play at the position probably makes them more likely than most to invest heavily in a center.


The Steelers spent their entire 2023 offseason focused on finding a long-term replacement to Dan Moore Jr. as the team’s left tackle. Omar Khan deftly traded up in the first round to land Georgia tackle Broderick Jones, and Jones stepped into the starting lineup midway through his rookie season, helping the team’s run-game down the stretch.

Yet Dan Moore remains in the starting lineup.

Instead of playing Jones at his natural left tackle position, the Steelers inserting him at right tackle, replacing incumbent starter Chukwuma Okorafor there. Okorafor was released earlier this month, leaving just Jones and Moore as the starting options on the roster.

So once again, the Steelers are setting out to replace Moore. The good news is that this year’s rookie tackle class is even deeper than it was last year. They probably won’t need to trade up in the first round to get a good option to step in at right tackle and let Jones move back to his left side.

Moore is entering the final year of his contract, so he can hold the door open for another rookie and then look for a greener pasture in free agency after 2024.


The Steelers secondary in 2023 can be summed up with one word, a quite unfortunate one when you look at the skills that are in demand at the position: slow.

Here are the 40-yard dash times of the Steelers primary corner and safety options:

Patrick Peterson 4.38
Eric Rowe 4.45
Joey Porter Jr. 4.46
Minkah Fitzpatrick 4.46
Damontae Kazee 4.54
Chandon Sullivan 4.60
Keanu Neal 4.62
Levi Wallace 4.63
Trenton Thompson 4.92

Now, let’s take into account that Peterson and Rowe ran those figures 13 and nine years ago, respectively, and that 13 players in last year’s draft class alone ran faster than Porter’s 4.46.

Speed isn’t everything, but the Steelers have a serious need to get faster in their secondary. Like tackle, this is a strong draft class, and a run on first-round quarterbacks could push elite talent down into the Steelers’ draft range.

There are also two great options out there in free agency between Jaylon Johnson and L’Jarius Sneed.

With Chandon Sullivan and Levi Wallace hitting free agency and Peterson a potential salary cap casualty, the Steelers could honestly use multiple additions at cornerback, but expect at least one big one.


The Steelers have starters Larry Ogunjobi and Cam Heyward under contract from last season, and second-year nose tackle Keeanu Benton looks ready to step up into a full-time role after sharing reps with free agent Montravius Adams.

So what’s the issue?

Well, Heyward will be 35 this season, he missed a six games in 2023 with injury, wasn’t 100% when he did play, and it’s safe to say that he has more days behind him than he does ahead of him as a productive starter.

Ogunjobi took a big step backward in 2023, and would be a potential salary cap casualty if the Steelers didn’t have so many other needs that will likely eat up the majority of their early draft picks.

Benton is one piece of the future puzzle. Before the Steelers can really feel good about the position going forward, they have to identify at least one more, and probably two more.

This is a prime positions for a mid-round draft pick to learn under Heyward for a year or two. The Steelers tried that with DeMarvin Leal a few years ago, but that experiment has yet to yield results.


The Steelers haven’t gone into an offseason without needing help at the linebacker position since Ryan Shazier was lost that fateful day in Cincinnati — eight years ago this fall.

On one hand, they might have the best hope for linebacker play in recent memory. Cole Holcomb was playing solidly in 2023 before his knee injury, and Elandon Roberts was a revelation. The 29-year-old played what might have been the best football in his career while holding down a linebacker corps that was wracked by injuries to Holcomb and Kwon Alexander.

With off-the-street fill-ins Myles Jack and Mykal Walker, Roberts did a great job of keeping the defense together mentally, and the long-feared thumper also handled his share of the coverage duties at a high level.

But of course, nothing is certain. Holcomb had a major knee injury, and while he said he expects to be back on his feet by OTAs, his level of play is no sure thing. He has had two consecutive seasons end early due to injury.

Alexander has an even more serious injury history. He has played just one full season in his last seven. It seems unlikely that he will be retained, opening up a hole for a rotational linebacker, particularly with an aptitude for coverage.


The Steelers tried to replace former first-round pick Terrell Edmunds in 2023 with a combination of Damontae Kazee and Keanu Neal. Neither played particularly well as a strong safety, Neal was hurt twice, Kazee got suspended and the team’s safety position devolved into a mess by midseason that it never recovered from.

Kazee is fine as a backup to free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, as a half-field strong safety, and when the team wants to use it’s three-safety package, but he doesn’t have the size to play in the box against run-heavy teams.

That was supposed to be Neal’s end of the deal, but he played in just nine games while battling injury. Both Kazee and Neal are under contract for 2024, and they could let the situation play out for one more year, but it seems clear that the long-term answer at strong safety is not on the roster.


The Steelers have three really good outside linebackers, with T.J. Watt having a good argument to be the best defensive player in the world, Alex Highsmith a strong second option, and Nick Herbig showing promise in his rookie season.

Markus Golden, the team’s No.3 OLB in 2023, is a free agent. Well-liked in the locker room and well-adjusted to his backup role, he could be brought back inexpensively. But the Steelers could also look for a long-term answer for depth at the position with a bit more size.

Herbig is one of the smallest edge rushers in the league at 6-foot-2, 240 pounds. Golden isn’t much bigger at 6-foot-2, 260 pounds. If Watt or Highsmith go out long term, the Steelers might want to be able to call on a player with more prototypical length and some more sand in his shorts to stuff the run.


The Steelers have one of the best one-two punches at running back in the league in Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren, so it’s hard to see this as a position of need, but stay with me.

Harris is due his fifth-year option this May, and he will likely get it, keeping him in Pittsburgh through the end of the 2025 season. Warren will be a restricted free agent next summer. He’s also committed to Pittsburgh through the end of the 2025 season.

The Steelers could certainly find a backup running back any old place, but taking a swing at a player with some upside could pan out, if it allows them to feel confident enough to walk away from one of their two starters in two years’ time.


The Steelers do not have a punter on their 90-man offseason roster after releasing former starter Pressley Harvin III, which is about as clear of a need as a team can have.

Luckily, it’s just punter, so they’ll find one somewhere.