Where is the ceiling for the Steelers following the NFL draft?
By Austin Lloyd
The Steelers draft haul checked some boxes, but not all of them–most namely in regards to linemen and corners. Where can their new look get them?
The Pittsburgh Steelers had a multitude of concerns to address in last month’s NFL draft, and while they busted their hump to do so, they still left a fair amount to be desired.
To recap, Pittsburgh answered the fans’ prayers for a promising future at the quarterback position. In fact, it arguably did so a little too well, drafting two QBs instead of just one (despite the first one–Kenny Pickett–being the Steelers sole pick in the first round).
Beyond that, they got Pickett some help on the passing game with wide receivers George Pickens and Calvin Austin III, TE/FB hybrid Connor Heyward (younger brother of veteran Pittsburgh D-lineman Cameron Heyward), and some NFL-ready playmakers for the defense.
Unfortunately, acquiring these players involved not picking any offensive linemen or cornerbacks, both of which were sizable question marks on the roster. However, there was noticeable depth added to both positions through UDFA signings.
With that said, the Steelers have probably endured the majority of their hefty alterations, for at least until their preseason games begin. So, the question that has to be asked ought as well to be asked now: where exactly does Pittsburgh’s ceiling sit as they enter the 2022-23 NFL season?
Pittsburgh’s future is anything but stable
Recently, I placed the Steelers in last for the AFC North due to them still having identity issues on their offense–a dilemma that no other team in the division is currently dealing with. That does not mean that they are incapable of making some noise, though.
The most “concrete” way to gauge a team’s chances of making a run next season is by referring to how good/bad they did last season. If Pittsburgh could sneak into a wild card spot following its 2021-22 regular-season performance, it could definitely do so this next time around.
As a matter of fact, the biggest obstacle for the Steelers is not their own limitations. Rather, it is the frightening array of formidability of the AFC.
Again, the Steelers just saw a wild card spot, and unless they lock up the top seed in the AFC bracket, the best they will do this winter is see it once more. But who all else could get a wild card spot before them?
Perhaps a more time-saving question would be who all probably won’t get a wild card spot before them, as there appears to only be four teams in the conference who will for sure be no better/even worse than Pittsburgh next season: Miami, New York, Houston, and Jacksonville. Everyone else is in the running for the bracket just as comfortably as Pittsburgh is, if not even more so.
So in short, the Pittsburgh Steelers certainly have what it takes to nab a wild card spot in the AFC playoff bracket at the end of this upcoming season. However, their ability to actually do so–or build off of such an opportunity–is nothing more than hypothetical with how the team sits today.