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Where Do the Steelers Still Need Upgrades after Early Free Agency Additions?



Patrick Peterson Steelers Free Agency

The Pittsburgh Steelers and new general manager Omar Khan have been active in the first three days of free agency, making five signings to help shore up some of the most pressing needs of the team as it enters the 2023 season.

Earlier this offseason, we ran a four-part series breaking down the Steelers’ offseason needs, diving into where the team has immediate starting needs, desires for an upgrade, future starting needs and immediate depth needs.

So let’s take a look at how the team’s work in the first week of free agency has or has not addressed those needs.


Cornerback: William Jackson III left for salary cap relief and the Steelers found the price too high for Cam Sutton, so they ended up landing former All-Pro Patrick Peterson. The Steelers can currently field three starting-caliber outside cornerbacks, with Peterson joining Levi Wallace and Ahkello Witherspoon. Add Art Maulet to the rotation in the slot and the immediate need here has passed.

Defensive tackle: Larry Ogunjobi is back, and with that, the Steelers two starting defensive tackles are both back in the fold. The Steelers could still use help at nose tackle and add a rotational pieces with Tyson Alualu and Chris Wormley both still free agents, but the starters are in place.

Inside linebacker: It appears that the Steelers have their starting duo, as Myles Jack was not among the team’s salary cap cuts and free agent Cole Holcomb should slot next to him to give the Steelers a nice 1-2 punch in stopping the running game. Depth and pass coverage ability still appear to be weaknesses.

Strong safety: While Terrell Edmunds’ fate is unknown, the Steelers have locked up at least one of their two starting-caliber strong safeties in Damontae Kazee. A bigger, more in-the-box friendly body and the ability to play three safeties at the same time will require Edmunds or an analogue, but there’s at least one starter in place.


Slot wide receiver: The Steelers have done nothing to address their hole at slot wide receiver, that was never filled after the trade of Chase Claypool mid-season in 2022. The Steelers do have options here in the form of Calvin Austin III, Anthony Miller and Gunner Olszewski, but none are proven performers. In addition, Steven Sims remains an unrestricted free agent.


Guard: The Steelers didn’t necessarily get a sure-thing upgrade at left guard with the addition of up-and-down former Philadelphia Eagles guard Nate Herbig. If the Steelers get the player he was his first three seasons in Philly, it’s an upgrade over incumbent starter Kevin Dotson. If they get the more-spotty performance Herbig gave the Jets last year, it’s depth. One way or the other, guard has become a seriously less-vital interest for the Steelers for the remainder of the offseason.


Tackle: This was always a long-shot position to be addressed in free agency, where the class is thin and the big names will require more than the Steelers’ entire free agent budget to land. The Steelers still have both of their 2022 starting tackles, but an upgrade and depth could both be on their eye in the draft.

Outside linebacker: The Steelers have been searching for a No. 3 outside linebacker to run with T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith since promoting the latter from that role in 2021. They tried with a free agent in Melvin Ingram in 2021, who was unhappy with his playing time, and with a trade in 2022, when Malik Reed unimpressed with his play. Third time’s a charm?

Nose tackle: It seems unlikely that Tyson Alualu is coming back, and Montravius Adams suffered under the brunt of an increased workload in 2022, so the Steelers could definitely look to add a nose tackle in either free agency or the draft. There are still some FA candidates out there, as well as a couple of big targets in the draft class.

Tight end, fullback: With Zach Gentry and Derek Watt both free agents, the Steelers have some work to do to rebuild their depth here, and the market has been very quiet on this front.

Defensive tackle: Chris Wormley played a lot of football for the Steelers the last few years, and it’s not clear after his ACL injury late in 2022 if Wormley will be ready to start the season even if the Steelers wanted to re-sign him. Depth at DT remains a priority.

Strong safety: Kazee can play either spot, but he’s really more of a half-field safety than the Steelers have traditionally employed at the strong safety spot. They also really liked having three starting-caliber safeties last year.

Center: J.C. Hassenauer is a free agent and with Mason Cole not signed long-term, the Steelers could choose to find a backup with more upside for the future. They could also just move Kendrick Green back to center with the addition of Herbig. We shall see.

Slot corner: The Steelers took care of things outside by signing Peterson, but about half of Cam Sutton’s role from 2021-22 was serving as the team’s passing-down slot corner. None of the team’s three outside options has extensive experience inside, so the team could look to add another inside corner to replace that part of Sutton’s game.

The Steelers did essentially nothing in terms of their potential future needs, which is to be expected considering the way the team typically does business. Those future needs will have to wait for the draft.

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March 15, 2023 9:56 pm

Please document how you think Holcomb will be a liability/deficit in coverage. I think you’re being lazy and relying on one or two stats (if that).

al madison
March 17, 2023 12:45 am

nothing to move the needle. They better nail the draft and hope Pickett makes the leap.

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