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Setting expectations for the 2024 Steelers is no easy task

The Pittsburgh Steelers had quite the up-and-down season in 2023. After setting themselves up for a prime playoff spot, the team dropped three games in a row against some of their weaker opponents of the season only to finish on a three-game winning streak and claim the final spot in the AFC for the 2023 postseason. Despite finishing with a 10–7 record and 5–1 in the AFC North, the Pittsburgh Steelers were not going to be satisfied keeping the status quo, so they spent the 2024 offseason working to upgrade some key positions.

But will the upgrades the Steelers made on paper translate to the football field? And did the places where the Steelers have not made significant improvements, will they be adequate enough to have success?

These are the main questions when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers for the 2024 season. And because of the number of questions at various places, it makes it even more difficult to set expectations for what’s to come this year. Simply looking at some of the “expert opinions” that have been stated, the Steelers are looking at both their first losing season since 2003 or an improved record over last season. The only difference is which “expert” you trust.

One of the biggest positions of turnaround, as well as the most important position in professional sports, is the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback room. The Steelers have not brought back any of their quarterbacks from 2023 in an attempt to revamp the position. While some question the quality of play left in Russell Wilson, and if Justin Fields is capable of being a quality NFL quarterback, the bar set by last year’s QBs is very low. Only throwing 13 passing touchdowns in 17 games is not a difficult standard to upgrade. But at the same time, despite their statistics, two of the three Steelers quarterbacks from 2023 found a way to win football games. Whether or not they deserve the credit is debatable, but wins are still wins.

Because of these issues, belief in the Steelers quarterbacks has a large spectrum of opinions. Until the Steelers take the field in the regular season, knowing exactly where the quarterback play will fall is merely an educated guess.

The Steelers also upgraded the inside linebacker position with the addition of Patrick Queen in free agency. With Elandon Roberts back for another season and the Steelers using a third-round draft pick on Payton Wilson, the Steelers don’t have to bank on an immediate return from injury of Cole Holcomb. There is a lot of hope at this position, but some may not be as confident as others.

There are plenty of other positions where the opinion of how things will play out can vary. Although Steelers are hopeful they have their long-term solution at center with second-round draft Zach Frazier, will he be able to make a huge impact, or crack the starting lineup early on, during the 2024 season? And if it’s not Frazier, what’s the next option?

While the concerns at center seem to be addressed in the NFL draft, there are still plenty of questions at wide receiver. After trading away, Diontae Johnson, is George Pickens ready to be “the guy” in Pittsburgh? Will he have enough of a supporting cast with some low profile veterans, a young Calvin Austin III looking to take steps in his second season on the field, and the rookie third-round pick Roman Wilson? Fans having varying opinions on this room is not only reasonable, but expected.

To hit one more position group, the Steelers decided to move on from cornerback Levi, Wallace, as well as, for now, Patrick Peterson and Shannon Sullivan, although they have not been signed by other NFL teams at this time. Wanting to have improved play is something that should be desired. But do the Steelers really have the personnel to do so? Is Donte Jackson, the player they received in return in the Diontae Johnson trade, the answer? Are the Steelers counting on their young, inexperienced cornerbacks to step up this season? Some fans can be hopeful, but others are overly concerned.

While these topics have been discussed at length for months, and then tweaked following the NFL draft several weeks ago, there are a lot of different places on the 2024 Steelers depth chart that need to come together. Will they all come together? Will some work out while others are less than desirable? What if the Steelers struggle with all these positions? What if an unexpected issue arises?

This is why it’s difficult to set reasonable expectations for the 2024 Pittsburgh Steelers. If you are someone who thinks all these things are going to be better than expected, then the expectations should be high. But if you’re a fan who is very leery about unknown things working out, you are probably anticipating disappointment in 2024. It’s a wide variety of possibilities.

Of all the things discussed before, one thing that wasn’t mentioned is it the Steelers also having a new offensive coordinator. Getting used to a new coach can be a wildcard, but with the Steelers having such a historically bad predecessor it’s difficult for anyone to anticipate things would be even worse.

So should Steelers fans do their best to fall in the middle? Is it better to set low expectations and be surprised than to have high expectations and be disappointed? Honestly, all of it is acceptable. There are lots of unknowns for the Steelers heading into the season. If you were someone who’s not sold on all the changes working out, it doesn’t make you a “hater” but also doesn’t mean you’re a realist. Just give an honest evaluation and let it stand on its own merit. That’s what all of us should do.

Personally, I always lean towards the side of optimism. I think the Steelers have added some key pieces to improve for 2024 and I don’t think they’re satisfied at this time. Whether new additions come to the roster before training camp or moves are made just before the start of the season, I see the Steelers doing everything they can to strengthen this roster. And with that attitude, even though things don’t always work out, I’ll continue with my optimism. But for those who have a lot of concern and don’t share my optimism, I think they also have some very valid points.


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