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What did the AFC/NFC Championship games teach us about the Steelers?

The Pittsburgh Steelers finished the 2023 regular season with a respectable 10-7 record, but don’t tell fans of the black-and-gold it was a good season.

They won’t be having any of that after such a turbulent season, one where the quarterback position remains a question heading into the offseason.

Nonetheless, after watching the AFC and NFC Championship games, it does make you wonder how the Steelers add up when it comes to the legitimate contenders in the NFL. There were certainly some differences between the “final four” teams, and the Steelers. Let’s take a look at just where the line of demarcation exists:

Quarterback

There might be no other position which shows how the Steelers aren’t close to truly competing than the quarterback position. Look at the final four quarterbacks in the playoffs:

  • Lamar Jackson
  • Patrick Mahomes
  • Jared Goff
  • Brock Purdy

Even Purdy, who was drafted in the 7th Round of 2022, showed serious signs of big play ability. His escapability and elusiveness in the pocket extending plays was a huge boost for the 49ers in the championship game. Likewise, Mahomes remains one of the greatest quarterbacks of the modern era, and Goff didn’t lost the game for the Lions. When talking about just quarterbacks, you see how far off the Steelers are from truly contending.

Skill Positions

What was intriguing about the teams who made the championship game were how they all varied in terms of skill position players. The Lions had their skill position players let them down in critical moments, the Chiefs didn’t have the loaded roster of others but Travis Kelce alone helped them get to the Super Bowl. The 49ers have a great set of skill position players, as do the Ravens and the team they’ve assembled. While the Steelers have some sill positions covered, they are still a few pieces away from having a roster comparable in this regard.

Defense

When the Steelers have all of their components on defense, they can stand tall with the teams who made Championship Sunday. However, Cam Heyward isn’t getting younger, the inside linebacker position remains a wreck, and the secondary is a few pieces away from being true contender status. Are they an offseason away from getting answers to those questions? They absolutely could be, but they’ll need another impactful draft class and quality pieces added in free agency.

Coaching

At a time when Steelers fans love to bash on Mike Tomlin, watching Dan Campbell out-smart himself with his aggressiveness made me realize sometimes the safe play is the smart play. Nonetheless, you saw four great coaches, all great in their own way, who surrounded themselves with great coaching staffs. Tomlin is still a good coach, but can he surround himself with coaches who can complete the puzzle and help put the players in position to succeed?


What do you think? How far are the Steelers from being genuine contenders in the AFC? Let us know in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to SCN for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the rest of the offseason.

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