Are Steelers Super Bowl contenders or pretenders after the 2024 NFL Draft?

With the 2024 NFL draft behind us, let's look at the 2024 Steelers chances to contend for the Vince Lombardi Trophy
Jul 27, 2023; Latrobe, PA, USA;  Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin (left) and general manager Omar Khan (center) standing with Steelers President Art Rooney II
Jul 27, 2023; Latrobe, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin (left) and general manager Omar Khan (center) standing with Steelers President Art Rooney II / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2024 free agency period ancient history at this point and with what I would describe as another stellar draft, at least on paper, by Omar Khan and the front office, the obvious question for me that needs to be answered is this: are the 2024 Steelers Super Bowl contenders?

To frame the question another way, can the 2024 Steelers contend for the Super Bowl? I think the answer to that question is also the difference between possibility and probability, meaning the Steelers can contend for the Super Bowl since anything is possible, but not everything is probable.

Despite an outstanding 2024 draft, the Steelers may not be in the discussion to hoist another Vince Lombardi trophy

The Steelers have had what I believe to be back-to-back outstanding drafts. We got significant contributions from our 2023 draft picks, such as Joey Porter, Jr., Broderick Jones, and Nick Herbig, to name but a few players and this year's draft class has a lot of promise, at least on paper.

Promise, however, does not always equate to reality so no one really knows how well any of our 20024 draft picks will play or how much of an impact, if any, they will have this season. The one thing I think is evident is the fact that our new offensive coordinator, Arthur Smith, probably played a significant role in our drafting three offensive linemen in the first four rounds.

Look, I go back to the glory days of the 1970s when every team we played knew that we were going to run the ball, try to establish dominance at the line of scrimmage then 'ground and pound' once we got the lead. It was a simple formula but it was so effective that we won four Super Bowls over six years as a result. Art Rooney II enjoyed that decade as much as I did.

Yes, we passed the ball as well, but we won those Super Bowls because of a dominant defense and a dominant offensive line, one that was adept at both run blocking and pass blocking. In 2023, I would say the offensive line was pretty good in the running game and adequate in the passing game.

Unfortunately in today's NFL, pretty good and adequate won't 'cut it'. We need balance in both the running game and the passing game. I don't think there's any question that Smith will expound the running game, but it's the passing game that I question.

Our first-round pick in 2023 who was ostensibly drafted to replace Dan Moore Jr., Broderick Jones saw extensive action on the right side of the O-line. Troy Fatanu, our first-round pick this year, played left tackle in college, so what's the plan here?

Are we going to have Fatanu compete with Moore Jr.? If Jones couldn't best Moore Jr., who's to say Fatanu will? To me, that is uncertainty we don't need. We also have uncertainty, and I would offer that the uncertainty is palpable, at the quarterback position, which happens to be the most important position in today's NFL.

Say what you want, but I don't see any probable scenario playing out where we make it to the Super Bowl with any combination of Russell Wilson, Justin Fileds, Kyle Allen, or newly signed undrafted free agent, John Rhys Plumlee. I could be wrong and I truly hope I am, but I just don't see it playing out the way we want it to play out.

Hopefully, the Steelers have done enough in the last two drafts to build a team that can and will compete for a Super Bowl this season because, if we have another lackluster season or another 'one and done' season, that is yet another wasted season and we simply can't afford any more of those.

So, all of what we discussed boils down to one thing: will the 2024 Steelers be in the discussion to hoist our seventh Vince Lombardi Trophy? Again, anything is possible, not many things are probable. It probably won't happen, but it certainly could happen. How's that for an answer?