Today, we’ll continue our Pittsburgh Steelers 2024 offseason needs assessment with a look down the depth chart.
On Monday and Tuesday, we broke down where the Steelers have immediate starting holes and upgrade needs for the 2024 season. On Wednesday, we looked ahead to the future to see where the Steelers will need starters in 2025 and beyond.
Now, we’ll focus on the second and third ranks of the team, and see where depth additions will be immediately necessary. These could be players that are found cheaply in free agency, like when the Steelers made the savvy move to pick up Kwon Alexander mid-summer last season, or in the later rounds of the draft, like Nick Herbig coming in and grabbing a backup outside linebacker job as a fourth-round rookie.
So where do the Steelers’ need to bolster their depth in 2024? Let’s dive in.
STEELERS 2024 IMMEDIATE DEPTH NEEDS
Quarterback: We know that Kenny Pickett will be back and will likely start the offseason as the team’s starting quarterback, though Mike Tomlin promised competition at that spot.
Mitch Trubisky is also technically under contract, though he will almost certainly be a salary cap casualty. Mason Rudolph is a free agent. The Steelers likely need two players at this position, but the pressing one, and the one that will likely need to be addressed through free agency, is someone capable of pushing Pickett.
Backups on the roster: Mitch Trubisky
Wide receiver: We’ve already covered this position multiple times before. Allen Robinson II wasn’t great as a slot receiver in 2023, and is likely to be a cap casualty anyway, so there is an immediate upgrade need for the starting slot receiver.
Diontae Johnson is also set to become a free agent in 2025, so there is a future starting need at outside receiver.
Finally, special teamer and No. 5 wide receiver Miles Boykin is a free agent, and so the team is in need of a backup outside receiver, as well. Robinson filled in for Johnson when he was hurt earlier in 2023, but that didn’t go well. Boykin, at this point in his career, is basically just a special teamer. A backup with some real upside would go a long way.
Backups on the roster: Calvin Austin III
Inside linebacker: Cole Holcomb is already walking around after the ACL surgery that ended his 2023 season, and he intends to be ready to go for the start of 2024.
Holcomb and Elandon Roberts could easily be the starting duo for this coming season, but remember that in 2023, the Steelers wanted a three-man trio for that position. With Holcomb coming off a major injury, that seems even more prudent this time around.
Alexander, who filled that role at the beginning of 2023, and Myles Jack and Mykal Walker, who filled it at the end, are all free agents.
Mark Robinson did up his game toward the back half of the season, but the Steelers’ lack of a true coverage linebacker showed in their inability to keep up with tight ends in coverage down the stretch. They’ll likely find a linebacker somewhere this offseason, through either free agency or the draft.
Backups on the roster: Mark Robinson, Jeremiah Moon
Running back: Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren have the carries at this position locked down for the foreseeable future, but with Anthony McFarland moving onto the UFL and Godwin Ihe Steelers don’t have a real No. 3 in the room.
Godwin Igwebuike is a free agent, albeit restricted, and it’s not clear that the team really sees him as an option at running back, instead of just as a special teamer. He did not have a carry this year.
Arthur Smith is going to run the ball in his new offense, and Harris and Warren will both have big roles. Having at least one capable backup seems like a must.
Backups on the roster: none
Defensive tackle: Another position we’ve previously covered, the Steelers should probably be looking for another long-term option to pair with Keeanu Benton and replace Cam Heyward going forward.
But in the short term, there are two key members of the 2023 rotation that are set to hit free agency in Montravius Adams and Armon Watts.
The emergency of Isaiahh Loudermilk as a reliable part of the rotation down the stretch run of the 2023 season likely eliminates the need for the Steelers to add two players here.
But Loudermilk doesn’t play nose tackle, and if Adams isn’t brought back, only Benton will have extensive experience at that position. The Steelers will likely need to bring in a second player to play the nose and also someone to be the sixth rotational defensive linemen alongside Heyward, Benton, Larry Ogunjobi, Loudermilk and DeMarvin Leal.
Backups on the roster: Isaiahh Loudermilk, DeMarvin Leal
Outside linebacker: Herbig emerged on the scene and grabbed a lot of attention as a rookie backup to T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith in 2023.
Now the question will be what the Steelers want to do with the other backup inside linebacker spot. Veteran Markus Golden did a solid job with that role last season, but he is an unrestricted free agent.
Will he want to return to place that had such little playing time for him? And will the Steelers want to go with a veteran that will likely slot ahead of Herbig in the rotation again, or will they want the youngster to move up and bring someone else along as a No. 4?
Backups on the roster: Nick Herbig, Kyron Johnson