Big men moving people. The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2023 offseason approach is as clear as day. From the moves they’ve made to the ones they’re considering, there’s been a common theme.
In free agency, the team landed road-grader Nate Herbig to play guard. A wide body who will piss off a ton of defensive linemen, he’s the odds-on-favorite to start at left guard out of the gate.
Panning out, of the team’s five known pre-draft visitors, four match that theme. Three offensive linemen are being brought in: Ohio State OT Dawand Jones, Florida OG O’Cyrus Torrence, and Minnesota C John Michael-Schmitz. All big people and butt-kickers who can create first-level movement against the run. The fourth comes on the other side of the ball in Florida DL Gervon Dexter, another big, strong, and toolsy lineman who comes close to checking the boxes Pittsburgh wants. The only exception is CB Kelee Ringo.
While the team will bring in up to another 25 pre-draft visitors and there will be variance of different positions, the names we know coupled with Herbig’s signing, all point in the same direction. An emphasis on the trenches with big, physical dudes who will push their weight around and win the line of scrimmage. Though the level isn’t known, the team’s apparent interest in Orlando Brown Jr. is another reinforcing point.
That’s what Pittsburgh’s offensive identity evolved into after the 2022 bye week. No one ran the ball more than the Steelers did after Week 9. While it was messy and ugly and sometimes boring, it worked. They won. Make no mistake this offense needs to open up, give Kenny Pickett more control, and not three-yards-and-a-cloud of dust their way all season. That might make you a competitive team but your playoff stay will be short. But this is who Pittsburgh wants to be and this is their first full offseason to build off that identity discovered and started last year.
In some respects, that’s where the NFL is trending toward. At least the ones without elite, established franchise quarterbacks. Over the past decade, the trickle-up from the college system made offenses, and by extension defenses, smaller, lighter, and faster. In its ever-cyclical nature, things are reverting back, teams zigging when the rest zag. Going bigger, running the ball, being more physical with linemen eating those 220-pound linebackers for lunch. That’s the direction Pittsburgh’s going, at least offensively. It’s what Baltimore and San Francisco have leaned on with success. Perhaps the team will even go further with top-line blocking tight ends. As of this writing, TE Zach Gentry remains a free agent. and while he has the size, his play was underwhelming last year.
This charted course stems from a number of directions. The way the team won last year. Assistant GM’s Andy Weidl’s influence as a former college guard who loves the trenches. And the chess game of beefing up when others aren’t.
Pittsburgh still has plenty more pieces to add. We don’t yet know how the roster is going to look. But we have a clue of where it’s headed and it’s one with a lot of size and plenty of power.