Roy Blount Jr.'s book "About Three Bricks Shy of a Load" was about the 1973 Steelers, but the title could also be used to summarize the 2022 Steelers. While a talented team, the 2022 Steelers were a few pieces short of being a title contender.
Their 6-1 finish down the stretch reinforced the notion that the Steelers aren't far away from being on the same playing field as the AFC's heavyweights. Pittsburgh's roster includes some of the NFL's best players in T.J. Watt, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Cameron Heyward, and emerging young players in Kenny Pickett, George Pickens, Najee Harris and Pat Freiermuth. The Steelers also have one of the NFL's best coaches in Mike Tomlin, who has still never had a losing season.
Let's take a look at the three biggest things the Steelers can do this offseason to improve their odds at making a legitimate Super bowl run in 2023.
Build an offense around Kenny Pickett
Tomlin said this week that he doesn't have any regrets with how he handled his quarterback situation in 2022. While it played a role in Pittsburgh missing the playoffs, Tomlin's decision to bring Pickett along slowly paid dividends during the second half of the season. Pickett won five of his final six starts to finish his rookie season with a 7-5 record.
Unlike last offseason, the Steelers know who their starting quarterback is entering this offseason. This is a major advantage in that Pittsburgh can build its offense around Pickett, who this past season became the first rookie quarterback in NFL history to throw game-winning touchdown passes in the final minute in consecutive weeks.
Look for Pittsburgh's offense to take a more aggressive approach during Pickett's second season. Tomlin admitted this week that the Steelers' offense in 2022 was conservative by design. With another year under his belt, and based on what he displayed late in games during the second half of this past season, Pickett will be given more freedom to stretch the field in 2023.
A familiar face for Pickett
The Steelers were the clear winners of their trade involving Claypool just before last year's deadline. In fact, don't be surprised if Pittsburgh uses the 32nd overall pick acquired in the trade to select Claypool's replacement.
In his first draft as the Steelers' general manager, Omar Khan has the challenge of following the footsteps of his predecessor, Kevin Colbert, who was hailed for his ability to draft future star receivers. Fortunately for Khan, there should be plenty of good options to pick from should the Steelers go the receiver route with the 32nd pick.
If he's available, the Steelers should strongly consider drafting Jordan Addison, who enjoyed considerable success with Pickett during their time together at Pitt. While helping lead Pitt to an ACC title, Addison caught 100 passes for 1,593 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2021, with the majority of those receptions coming on passes from Pickett.
The Steelers can look at their AFC North rival for an example when it comes to reuniting their quarterback with a former college teammate. The Bengals have greatly benefited from drafting Ja'Marr Chase instead of Penei Sewell in the 2021 Draft. Chase and Joe Burrow picked up where they left off at LSU and have become one of the NFL's top QB-WR duos.
TCU's Quentin Johnston and Ohio State's Jaxon Smith-Njigba are other possible options late in the first round. Johnson averaged nearly 19 yards per catch during his time at TCU. Smith-Njigba, despite being injured for most of the 2022 season, remains one of the top receiver prospects in the draft after putting up big numbers in 2021. He caught 15 passes for a staggering 347 yards and three touchdowns during the Buckeyes' 2022 Rose Bowl win over Utah.
Add a piece at each level of the defense
The league's highest-paid unit a year ago, the Steelers' defense could use an upgrade at each level this offseason. Pittsburgh would be wise to spend a high draft pick on a nose tackle, a decision that worked well for Colbert in 2001 when he drafted future five-time Pro Bowler and two-time Super Bowl champion Casey Hampton with the 19th overall pick.
With Devin Bush expected to test the market, look for the Steelers to add to their inside linebacker corps in either free agency or during the draft. This isn't the highest priority, however, given that the Steeler' have capable starters in place in Myles Jack, Robert Spillane and Mark Robinson, who played in front of Bush during the final games of the 2022 season. That being said, the Steelers need an inside linebacker with better ball skills who can hold his own against the Mark Andrews of the league.
Cornerback and strong safety are two positions the Steelers will have to address. The Steelers could choose to re-sign Cam Sutton and/or Terrell Edmunds or look to fine one or both of their replacements via the draft or in free agency. Expect the Steelers to try to keep Sutton, a cagy player who has emerged as one of the Pittsburgh's leaders in the secondary.
Pittsburgh re-signed Edmunds last offseason after they let him test the market. Don't be surprised if history repeats itself in the case of Edmunds this offseason. If Edmunds isn't retained, look for the Steelers to draft his replacement. One option could be Alabama's Jordan Battle, a versatile player who was praised in college for his elite fundamentals and football IQ.