Four team needs for the Steelers following the first wave of free agency

Following the initial first two weeks of free agency, we can now begin to see how 2024 rosters are taking shape around the National Football League.

That is no different for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have added some new faces to their team but also let some go. With some players being released, others not re-signed and still others traded, Steelers General Manager Omar Khan still has some work to do at the following positions.

Look for Pittsburgh to address these spots soon, either with savvy free-agent pick ups during the next wave of signees or the upcoming 2024 NFL Draft.

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The Steelers said goodbye to veteran C Mason Cole this offseason, as Cole’s performance had been better than his predecessor, Kendrick Green, but still below the line of Hall of Fame level play the franchise has enjoyed during the modern era.

With two new quarterbacks in town, the center position is imperative for the team. Aside from snapping the ball, the center generally knows everything that’s going on with any given play. This will be important with first-year offensive coordinator Arthur Smith’s schemes, as well as making sure the snaps themselves don’t fall at the ankles of Russell Wilson or Justin Fields.

Look for the Steelers to possibly add a free agent who can plug and play at multiple spots while also targeting this position in the draft.

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Wide Receiver

The second big target for the Steelers front office will be filling the shoes of WR Diontae Johnson, who was traded to help fill another gap, as they swapped the receiver to the Carolina Panthers to help cover another hole on the roster at the cornerback position.

While the team has added veterans Van Jefferson and Quez Watkins in recent weeks, neither player has had a significant impact in the pros to suggest they will fill Johnson’s shoes. They may not even be able to fill the shoes of last year’s third receiver, Allen Robison, who was released in a cap-saving move.

With George Pickens as the elder statesman of the group, and a young Calvin Austin (who missed all of his rookie season) rounding out the receiver room, it’s obvious the team will continue searching for other playmakers at this position.

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Offensive Tackle

When asked about moving 2023 first-round pick Broderick Jones back to left tackle after having played on the right side last season, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin didn’t give any clarity. That’s not because Jones isn’t capable of playing on the left, but its due to the lack of other players who are capable of filling in on the right side.

Last year’s left tackle, Dan Moore Jr., enters the final year of his rookie contract. It would be fair to say that Moore hasn’t played up to the potential of an NFL starter, but has continued in his role because he’s inadequate to move to the right side: doing so would damage the play of the offensive line further.

Rather than create an extra hole by flipping Moore and Jones, the Steelers either have to add a new right tackle who’s an upgrade, or they’ll have to continue with the status quo.

If one thing is for certain, they didn’t believe in the status quo when they released Chukwuma Okorafor, who was benched after starting as the team’s right tackle in 2023.

Look for Pittsburgh to attempt to upgrade this position too. However, with the center and receiver positions looking to be a higher priority, it’s difficult to say if a draft pick will suffice, while a free agent is almost out of the mix now that the first wave of potential upgrades is gone.

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Slot Corner

The Steelers are still searching for a player who can replace Mike Hilton, who left several years ago to sign with the Cincinnati Bengals.

Their search has found them players such as Arthur Maulet and Chandon Sullivan, while also attempting to slide others over into the rotation such as Cameron Sutton and recently released Patrick Peterson.

Peterson, who is rumored to return, factors into being more of a “dimebacker” role, covering tight ends and running backs at this stage of his career. That still leaves the Steelers needing a shifty, speedy player who can line up against fast receivers.

The rest of the cornerback depth is okay otherwise, with starters Joey Porter Jr. and Donte Jackson penciled in, while inexperienced younger players such as Darius Rush and Corey Trice are still on the roster to provide depth.

Adding one additional cornerback to this group will likely lock it down for 2024. Peterson could return as insurance, but the safe bet is that the team would still add yet another defensive back specifically to play as their nickel corner.

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