We’ve known for quite some tine that the Pittsburgh Steelers would have several holes to fill come the 2023 season. What we didn’t anticipate is the majority of those holes would be on the defensive side of the ball. The offense is young, and improving while the Steelers defense is the exact opposite. Let’s take a look at what the 2023 defense looks like, and the changes that will be needed:
There is a very good argument that this is the number one need in the upcoming draft. Pittsburgh will only have four players under contract at this position heading into next season. Those would be a 34 year old Cam Heyward, Demarvin Leal, Montravius Adams and Isaiahh Loudermilk. At this point it’s safe to assume Loudermilk and Adams are just bottom of the roster backups. Leal has shown promise in his rookie season, but one has to wonder if he’s an every down player. He may end up being just a third down specialist for this team. We are seeing another very good season from Cam Heyward, but there are signs of slowing.
Pittsburgh is still reeling from the sudden retirement of Stephon Tuitt last season. They managed to put a bandaid on the problem by signing Larry Ogunjobi to a one year deal. Unfortunately he will be looking to cash in on a huge contract this off-season. The reality is after watching his up and down 2022, he does not seem worth that kind of financial commitment. This team will undoubtedly be using draft picks and free agent money on the defensive line next off-season.
Another year, another set of questions regarding the Steelers inside linebacker position. Devin Bush can only be regarded as a huge flop despite playing better in 2022. When you trade up into the top ten for a player, you expect Pro-Bowl caliber play for years. He has given this team anything but that, leaving the team no choice but to decline his fifth year option. Meaning once again this franchise will be spending significant assets on the inside linebacker position.
Myles Jack was a decent off-season signing. He started the season well, but injuries have slowed him in the second half. It is reasonable to assume a return to form next season. There is no one on this roster capable of playing along side Jack in 2023. Mark Robinson is a complete mystery having played only 7 snaps thus far, and Marcus Allen is just a special teams player. Count inside linebacker as a top off-season need in 2023.
This is one of the few position groups along the defense that is set for next season. TJ Watt and Alex Highsmith represent one of the best pairs of edge rushers in the entire league. The problem here is depth. The Steelers must add a capable backup to this position. We saw this pass rush crater when Watt went down earlier this season. Not to mention the need to spell these two during the course of games. We would put this in the top five needs heading into 2023.
The Steelers defense has one of the premiere safeties in the league in Minkah Fitzpatrick. That’s a great start, but who plays along side him is the question. It seems like a pretty easy solution here. Pittsburgh should get the re-signing of Terrell Edmunds done early so they can concentrate on the bigger issues on this defense. Do that, and this is a borderline elite safety duo going forward.
We may have saved the best (worst) for last here. Corner could be the biggest need for this team heading into next year, right up there with defensive tackle. Pittsburgh has a few forgettable options still under contract. Players like Akhello Witherspoon, Levi Wallace, and William Jackson III are all less than desirable options in 2023. Top five Steelers draft needs for 2023
Their best corner Cam Sutton is a free agent, and even he is better suited as a slot corner. Pittsburgh will need to use their first round pick, or at the very least some significant free agent money to get a number one corner on this roster. A lockdown corner would be a huge boost for this secondary, and the entire defense for that matter. This is something this team has lacked for over a decade now, maybe longer.
This Steelers defense has no shortage of holes to fill going into 2023. After years of first round picks being dumped into the defense, this franchise has very little to show for it. New GM Omar Khan has a daunting task rebuilding this unit. Fortunately for him they have plenty of draft capital and cap room to throw at it. Expect some serious capital spent on an overhaul of the Steelers defense next year.
If you enjoyed this post check out episode 59 of the Steelers Sanctuary Podcast here: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1981237/11909018