Steelers vs. 49ers: 5 things to know about Pittsburgh's Week 1 matchup

Pittsburgh Steelers, Steelers
Pittsburgh Steelers, Steelers / Daniel Shirey/GettyImages
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Steelers have more newcomers than at any time in recent history

Some season-to-season attrition is inevitable in the NFL with free agency, trades, and roster cuts. But to many longtime Steelers fans, it may be a little surprising to know that approximately 38 percent of the roster is new. That’s not really the Steelers way.

Or is it? This is the dawn of a new era with GM Omar Khan at the controls for his first full off-season, and boy did he make some moves in his debut. 

Pittsburgh has 20 new players on its 53-man active roster compared to last season at this time, according to the 2022 and 2023 season-opening depth charts at That's the most in recent Steelers history, dating back to at least 2015.

The Steelers struggled on offense last season, with many pointing to offensive coordinator Matt Canada as the problem. In fairness, Canada was dealing with a young group in basically his first season as the team’s play-caller — because we all know Roethlisberger pretty much did what he wanted to in his final season.

After a season of growing pains, the Steelers look like they’ve matured into a well-rounded offensive unit based on pre-season play. Eight offensive players will be making their debut in the Black & Gold on Sunday, including a trio of players who should help the passing attack.

Khan upgraded the slot receiver position by trading for Allen Robinson II (L.A. Rams) and also gains the services of the dynamic yet diminutive Calvin Austin III, a 2022 fourth-round draft pick from Memphis who missed all of last season due to injury. Rookie tight end Darnell Washington (Georgia) was drafted in the third round this year and will likely get a ton of playing time after the surprising release of Zach Gentry on cut-down day.

The offensive line returned all five starters — a group that played together in every game last season — but Khan still went out and signed free agent guard Isaac Seumalo (Philadelphia) to replace Kevin Dotson at left guard. The Steelers’ backups on the offensive line are mostly new, with first-round draft pick Broderick Jones (Georgia) waiting in the wings at tackle and former Jets interior lineman Nate Herbig signing as a free agent.

Khan made some major moves on the defensive side of the ball, collecting cat-quick tackle Keeanu Benton and his Wisconsin teammate, outside linebacker Nick Herbig, in April’s draft. A total of 12 defensive players will be making their Steelers' debut against the 49ers.

Khan replaced nearly the entire inside linebacker room and 3/5th of the starting secondary. Cole Holcomb (Washington), Elandon Roberts (Miami) and Kwon Alexander (N.Y. Jets) are the replacements at inside linebacker, while future Hall of Fame corner Patrick Peterson (Minnesota), nickel corners Chandon Sullivan (Minnesota) and Desmond King (Houston), and strong safety Keanu Neal (Tampa Bay) were brought in along with second-round draft pick Joey Porter, Jr. to bolster the secondary.