Once the NFL Season ends it’s always smart to take some time off before you really start to look toward the next season if only to prove the age-old adage that “cooler heads prevail.” Now that I don’t really despise the parts of the team that made me gag two weeks ago it felt like the proper time to look at this team as a whole and make some predictions for the next season.
The Steelers ended the season with a 28-14 beating of our younger kid brother in Cleveland which stamped off another above-average season. Tomlin still doesn’t have a losing season (S/O the haters) and ending our first Big Ben-less season in what feels like 4 generations on a 4 game win streak.
Some of the highs of the 2022/2023 season fall directly into the “hope” category. Our O-Line was supposed to be a massive improvement over the previous year and after some early stress and a few “Oh F****”, the line did eventually start to produce as a unit. Before week 15 Pro Football Focus actually had our line at 15 which shouldn’t really be celebrated but I’m popping champagne anyways.
Najee finally looked like Najee in the second half of the season which makes me believe his injury was as bad as we anticipated. Najee only broke 100 yards on the ground once this year against the Ravens in the second to last game of the year but had a few good weeks that reminded us why we took Harris in the first round of the draft. We also found an absolute dog in UDFA Jaylen Warren, an epic change of pace option to plug in when the offense needs a burst.
I’m still a bit torn on if Trubisky got his fair shot at being the starter, but Kenny finished the season looking like a true Pittsburgh Steeler starting quarterback. Pickett only threw for over 300 yards once but had a nice completion record for a first year guy in a brand new offense. One thing we need to do is work on the Steelers redzone offense as a whole which will come with time (despite me pulling my hair out over it every week).
Some notable names are entering free agency unless the Steelers can get a deal done in the early parts of the offseason. It’s time to let Mason Rudolph walk which seems like a no brainer at this point in his career. Kenny is the future, Mitch is a quality backup and there’s just no more love in the Steel City for the Oklahoma State product.
Big names from the draft like Devin Bush and Terrell Edmunds will get evaluated this offseaon with only Edmunds making sense to return. Bush may have success elsewhere but he’s been a liability in his time in Black and Gold.
I have three guys who I want back regardless of their asking price. Cameron Sutton has emerged as a trusted cornerback and someone that the Steelers need to bring back. Joe Clark from Steelers Depot recently published a blog about Sutton as a top 20 free agent per Pro Football Focus, the second-best free agent corner behind the Eagles James Bradberry.
Larry Ogunjobi was a force for the Steelers up the middle when healthy this season. I do currently have the Steelers taking Clemson’s Bryan Bresee in the draft if he falls so Ogunjobi would be a wonderful 1-year deal type of guy.
My third resign was injured for a large part of the year but when he played, he filled in key roles across the secondary. Damontae Kazee is a great addition to the defense and although he isn’t a “solution”, he’s a much needed bandaid.
In terms of pending free agents I would like to see in the black and gold there are a few names that jump off the list, none of which we will most likely go after. The Steelers constantly build through the draft, signing free agents to fill random holes here and there like Ogunjobi and James Daniels. We have had some big wins in the category like Myles Jack and Levi Wallace, both of which performed admirably at best this past season with Wallace catching a few interceptions.
There’s a few DT’s that could replace Ogunjobi is we let him walk. A reunion with Javon Hargrove would be wonderful but I fear he may have outplayed a contract in our normal price range. For some reason beyond my ability to comprehend I feel as if we’re going to sign Clelin Ferrell and just bring all of my hate toward draft busts full circle.
And then there was Matt Canada. The Steeler’s flat out do not fire a coach midseason so everyone calling for Canada’s head halfway through the year was just a lot of hoopla. I hated the play calling this year but there is the “benefit of the doubt” with a rookie QB and a fresh OC. Canada was picked most likely to aid Kenny, something that seemed to hurt his production more than help. That all being said we finished the year strong and aside from touchdowns in the air and in the redzone, the offense looked alive for the first time in a few years.
My personal take is Canada will be back but shouldn’t be. I know that loyalty is a massive factor for the Steelers but there are just too many good young potential coaches in the world for us to accept mediocrity, especially at the start of Kenny’s career. I know Canada will be back, I can feel it in my loins but it just feels like an acceptance of mediocrity heading into the next season.
Oh and also the Steelers win the division next year. Book it now.