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The Pittsburgh Steelers Are Stuck in a Philosophical Rut

I’m not going to criticize the Pittsburgh Steelers for drafting quarterback Kenny Pickett in the 1st Round of the 2022 NFL Draft. A guy they liked fell into their laps, and they made the sensible move to add him.

I’m also not suggesting that the team should necessarily regret the other moves they’ve made at the game’s most important position since Franchise Legend Ben Roethlisberger hung up his cleats. It’s not easy to transition from a future Hall of Fame player at any position, much less one as significant as NFL quarterback.

However, the Pittsburgh Steelers organization is suffering from a lack of imagination in 2024 when it comes to building an NFL offense, and it’s evident in their thought process regarding their QB room.

Earlier this week, our own Jeff Hartman and Bryan Anthony Davis reported from our sources inside the Steelers organization that the team, in fact, is not in the running for some of the high-profile QBs available this offseason.

This report doubles down on a similar narrative from longtime Steelers insider Gerry Dulac, who says the team is not looking to bring in “a quarterback who wants to be a starter”, leaving out big-name passers like Kirk Cousins, Justin Fields, and perhaps even Russell Wilson, who have been the targets of intense speculation across the national media and Steelers Nation.

Assuming that these reports are true (and our source is as reliable as they come), Pittsburgh is set to run it back in 2024 with some combination of Kenny Pickett and a veteran backup/insurance policy such as Mason Rudolph or Ryan Tannehill. They would likely add a 3rd QB via a mid-late round Draft selection or free agency.

Going this route after a couple years of horrific offensive stagnation and a stretch of playoff futility not seen since before the dynasty teams of the 70s, is, as the kids say, a choice. It shows that the Steelers value their process and philosophy over what is actually imperative to building a competitive offense in today’s NFL.

While I am an advocate of giving Kenny Pickett a chance in year 3 in an actual NFL-level scheme with a legitimate coordinator, the fact that the Steelers are reportedly not even entertaining the thought of upgrading the position and taking advantage of what many even in their own building believe to be a championship-ready roster is a staggering admission.

When you play in a league (and conference) dominated by elite passers like Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, and Joe Burrow to name just a few, how can you as an organization enter an offseason with such a big question mark at QB and not be in the market to significantly upgrade it if possible?

In a business where winning championships is the only goal, why would you not go all in on the position that is the single greatest variable in your ability to do so?

It shows a lack of vision and outside-the-box thinking, and many fans are tired of it.

Now, Kenny Pickett may in fact be a viable NFL signal caller in 2024 in an offense that by design makes things easier for the quarterback. Arthur Smith’s success in Tennessee with Ryan Tannehill is literally the gameplan for the Steelers offense this season.

I am not discounting Pickett’s potential to turn things around and be even a good NFL QB. But the fact that the Steelers are pursuing this formula at the expense of all else is going to be a tough sell to an already angsty, hungry fanbase.

Championship-level offense in today’s NFL requires at least an elite scheme and play-caller or an elite quarterback. If you ask teams like the Bills and 49ers, they’ll tell you that you need both.

It’s fine to have a powerful running game and an explosive group of skill players. It’s great to have a great Offensive Line. But how much will all of those things matter without a QB who can elevate it all to the next level? The answer is, not much if you want to win a Super Bowl.

It’s time for the Pittsburgh Steelers to recognize that they might be the victims of groupthink in their philosophy of team building, specifically on the offensive side of the ball. How they break through the cycle is a tough conversation and would likely involve changes at the top.

Many fans are past ready to have that conversation, and it’s hard to blame them when it feels like this team can’t see past its own entrenched philosophy which, frankly, has the team stuck in a quagmire of mediocrity.

It’s time to get out of that rut.


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