3 conflicting stories of the 2023 Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers long to 2023 offseason has come to close. With the preseason underway and the Steelers ready to take the field in less than a week, the speculations turn into on-field production. It is so much better to be talking about actual football being played then it is to theorize how the football will be played.
Looking back on this eventful 2023 offseason, there are three points in which I found a lot of confusion. There were times when some were speaking one narrative only for later what seemed to be the opposite narrative being reported.
Sometimes I just don’t get it.
So here are three conflicting story lines from the 2023 offseason, some of which even bled into training camp.
Draft and develop vs. overpaying their own
When the NFL legal tampering period kicked off on March 13, 2023, the first big move with the Pittsburgh Steelers came not from a signing but with the departure. Cornerback Cam Sutton, after finishing his second contract with Steelers, left for a lucrative deal with the Detroit Lions.
In the minutes following the announcement, there was disappointment coming from a number of Steelers fans as well as Steelers media. Particularly, one person who covers the Steelers for a national outlet criticized them for not sticking to their plan of action. In other words, if the Steelers philosophy is to draft and develop their own players, you simply can’t let them leave in free agency.
While I understand this criticism, the outrage didn’t last too long as it was later that day the Steelers were reported to be signing Patrick Peterson. But still, the fact remained in my mind– do the Steelers fail to keep their own players they’ve developed from the draft?
Fast forwarding to July, the Pittsburgh Steelers managed to lock up young pass rusher Alex Highsmith before playing the final year of his rookie deal and keeping him in Pittsburgh for another five seasons. Whether looking at the new money as being $17 million per season, or simply seeing it is just over $14.1 million over the next five years, the Steelers kept their sack leader from 2022, and former third round draft pick, within the organization.
While many in Steelers’ Nation were satisfied with the Highsmith deal, there were some who were critical of paying so much money to “Robin” when the Steelers already have “Batman” in T.J. Watt. But if the Steelers simply let Highsmith play out the last year of his contract and leave for greener pastures, wouldn’t the same criticism be brought up of not keeping the players they drafted and developed?
Overspending on defense vs. keeping their superstars
A lot of Steelers fans, and too many Steelers media, have run with the idea of the Steelers overspending on defense. Having the most expensive defense in 2022 and on their way to being towards the top when everything settles in for 2023, the criticism comes either by not being the number one defense in the NFL for by not spending enough money on offense.
Looking at the counterpoint on this one, I have to go back further than just the 2023 offseason to decisions made that put the Steelers where they are now. When the Steelers had superstars ready for their next contract, I don’t remember many being critical of the Steelers signing T.J. Watt, or Minkah Fitzpatrick, or the various deals for Cam Heyward which now seem like a bargain compared to others at the position. But I do recall fans having an issue with the Steelers paying Diontae Johnson for what he received.
So just because the Steelers superstars on their second contracts are more on defense then on offense at this time doesn’t mean they shouldn’t spend the money. In fact, if many Steelers fans had their way there would be more of a discrepancy as Diontae Johnson would not be the most expensive player on the books for the Steelers offense.
Deficiencies it inside linebacker vs. surplus at inside linebacker
Throughout the entire offseason concerns at the inside linebacker position have been at the top of many Steelers’ fans list. With a complete overhaul of the position outside of 2022 seventh-round draft pick Mark Robinson, there were many questions as to how the units could hold up in 2023. In fact, many fans hoped the Steelers would still make a move at the position.
Only days into training camp, the Steelers did exactly that. Signing Kwon Alexander to a one-year deal, the Steelers seemed to both add to the concerned depth as well as add a player who is known for his coverage abilities. But it didn’t take long for some of the Steelers media to criticize the move.
While I think many are ultimately satisfied with what the Steelers did at inside linebacker, in the days following Alexander’s signing the name Melvin Ingram was floated around by some. Instead of being satisfied with what the Steelers could have at the position, suddenly it became a problem to have three inside linebackers as many times only two are on the field with sometimes being only one. Looking back to Ingram‘s ill-fated season with the Steelers in 2021, he simply wanted out of town because he felt he should be receiving playing time over Alex Highsmith.
So were the Steelers to not address the issue of depth at inside linebacker because then they would have too many players to keep satisfied? Or was there simply going to be criticism of the position group no matter what the Steelers did?
So there are three conflicting stories that I struggle with recently as a Steelers fan. I know that many times the statements made on one side and the ones made on the other are not necessarily coming from the exact same person, but dealing with conflicting narratives sometimes leaves me frustrated. I’m not sure what the Steelers could do outside of winning the Super Bowl every year that could satisfy both of fan base and those who cover the team.
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