Category: NFL

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A Successful 2024 NFL Draft Sets the Stage for an Intriguing Steelers Season

The Pittsburgh Steelers have wrapped up yet another impressive recruiting performance in the 2024 NFL Draft. Likely bolstering their offensive line for years to come by the addition of maulers Troy Fautanu, Zach Frazier and Mason McCormick, the Steelers finally appear to have quelled the widespread criticism that they’ve shortchanged one of the team’s basic building blocks in recent years. Besides the obvious benefit for the Steelers’ QBs, this trio of OL picks surely comes as welcome news to Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren — a talented tandem that will be looking forward to significantly boosting their 2023 rushing stats.

The Steelers also managed to draft a talented receiver in Roman Wilson from Michigan who appears to be a player capable of earning a spot on the final roster. But the latter segment of this draft might also turn out to be important because the Steelers landed three promising defensive players in Payton Wilson, LB,(NC State), Logan Lee, DT, (Iowa) and Ryan Watts, DB, (Texas). Each of them appears to a have a high upside promising further development during their rookie year with the team.

Overall, Steelers Nation couldn’t ask for a stronger, more strategically sound draft than the team has concluded. The Steelers didn’t trade up or down but, nevertheless, most of the players they wanted were still on the board with Pittsburgh on the clock. There’s a palpable feeling of excitement and anticipation as fans wait to see how these talented youngsters navigate their golden opportunities for successful NFL careers.

But once this draft-rush subsides and the preseason schedule gets underway, the crucial factor of quarterbacking quickly will be grabbing center stage. At this point, the Steelers don’t have much more certainty about their QB situation than they did after last year’s NFL Draft. While it’s true that Russell Wilson is a proven NFL veteran and a known quantity, we won’t truly know until September how his skills translate in the context of the Arthur Smith offense.

During recent seasons, Wilson’s performance has been up-and-down. Many of the passes he threw as a Bronco were of the short-range variety and he was widely criticized for holding onto the ball too long and taking too many sacks. These tendencies help to explain why the Steelers appear to be emphasizing their running attack in 2024 and beyond. Wilson also tends to use his RBs more frequently in the passing game than Steelers fans are accustomed to seeing. Considering that both Harris and Warren are competent receivers — dangerous when catching the ball in space — this could add a new and effective dimension to the Steelers offense.

For all of his demonstrated capabilities, Wilson never has been the type of QB who can carry a team on his shoulders. Without a reliable and productive running game, things easily could turn ugly once the regular season begins. That’s why bolstering the OL was such a crucial priority in the remaking of the Steelers offense.

Similarly, when Justin Fields gets his own opportunities to take snaps in meaningful games, his development will be aided by stronger pass protection and the support of a potent running attack. While fans have some legitimate concerns about what the Steelers offense might look like come September, the organization appears to be on the right track strategically by making key moves calculated to support the profiles of the QBs they have now.

But along with all of the optimism attending the kickoff of a new season, two familiar threads are likely to persist within Steelers Nation. First, the pressure on Russell Wilson to command a more potent and winning offense will be intense. This pressure probably will be greater than what Pickett experienced because of Wilson’s veteran credentials. Secondly, unless the offense looks significantly improved once the regular season gets underway, we can fully expect the perennial critiques of Head Coach Mike Tomlin to continue, perhaps rising in volume.

The 2024 season thus represents a huge roll of the dice for Coach Tomlin and the Steelers organization. They have made a major commitment to change this offseason by hiring a new OC and totally repopulating the QB room. The last thing Steelers Nation will expect to see following Opening Day kickoff will be more of the same plodding offense we’ve been watching during the past two seasons.

Whereas young QBs typically enjoy at least minimal honeymoon periods, Wilson will be expected to hit the ground running in September football. The Steelers’ fortunes will hinge on how well this substantially altered cast of players responds to the pressure-cooker of a grueling, NFL season. The 2024 Steelers offense will feature key players who have never before been teammates. That’s why pulling such a diverse group together, by itself, represents a major undertaking.


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