Steelers biggest free-agency mistakes and how to fix them in the NFL Draft

The Pittsburgh Steelers still have holes on their roster. Here is how they can address them in the draft.

Feb 28, 2023; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Omar Khan
Feb 28, 2023; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Omar Khan / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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The Pittsburgh Steelers have had an active offseason to this point. They've traded a former first-round pick, traded for another one, and signed a Super Bowl Champion... and that's all just in the quarterback room.

Additionally, they cut five starters from last year's Week 1 roster, signed an All-Pro linebacker, and traded away a former pro bowler.

But there are still issues with this roster. For all the activity and news around the team, there are multiple positions with unusually large vacancies for this franchise. Let's take a look at the Steelers biggest free-agency mistakes and how to fix them in the NFL Draft.

Not signing a Center

The Steelers do not have a center on their roster. Period. Guard James Daniels has less than 600 snaps at the position in his career but hasn't played it in Pittsburgh. Nate Herbig has just 49 snaps at the position, and that's it.

After the team cut veteran Mason Cole before free agency, fans were sure they would bring in someone to hold down the position until the draft. Whether that was a mid-priced free agent to compete for the job or even a cheap veteran to be the backup. But so far, nothing.

It's rare for the Steelers to go into the draft with this little on their depth chart at a position, a theme for this post. Normally they do not want to be pigeon-holed into drafting for need.

Potential Fix: Any center in round one. Pick one. The Steelers haven't found consistent center play since Maurkice Pouncey retired in 2020. Consensus in this draft is there are potentially three centers that garner first or second-round picks - Graham Barton from Duke, Jackson Powers-Johnson from Oregon, and Zach Frazier from West Virginia. If Pittsburgh waits until their second pick at 51 overall, there's a good chance all three players will be gone. Positional value and historic trends should be thrown out the window and the Steelers should take a center at 20th overall.

Not signing an Offensive Tackle

Similarly to center the Steelers haven't just left the tackle position unsigned, they cut former starter Chukwuma Okorafor. They also have Left Tackle Dan Moore going into the final year of his rookie contract. Moore is at best an average left tackle and isn't always at his best.

When Okorafor was benched after Week 7 the Steelers turned to 2023 first-round pick Broderick Jones. And while Jones played well enough to be penciled into one tackle position, the team needs another player somewhere on the depth chart. Whether that be in place of Moore as a starter, or depth behind Moore and Jones with potential to start in 2025.

Potential Fix: Washington's Roger Rosengarten is an interesting prospect for the Steelers in round three. He has experience as both a left and right tackle, and technically speaking is a good fit for the Steelers because he is quick to make contact with defenders. Steelers Offensive Line Coach Pat Meyer was at the Washington Pro Day watching Rosengarten and teammate Troy Fautanu, who is projected to go before the Steelers pick in the draft. Rosengarten could be the team's swing tackle in 2024, then in 2025 play right tackle, allowing Jones to move to left.

Trading Diontae Johnson

The biggest mistake of the Steelers' free agency was trading wide receiver Diontae Johnson, and then not doing anything at the position afterward. Pittsburgh has signed Quez Watkins and Van Jefferson, but both players will be fighting for a spot on the roster come the summer. Neither is taking the place of Johnson who had 137 catches for 1,599 yards in the last two years.

While Johnson wasn't always appreciated by fans he is an elite separator, good all-around player and had a lot of experience, more than anyone left in the room. With a serious lack of production beyond George Pickens, who is already extension-eligible after 2024, the Steelers need to get busy filling in Johnson's shoes in the draft.

Potential Fix: Day two, specifically round two, has been the sweet spot for the Steelers and receivers for several years. Several players in this range are interesting but I like Ricky Pearsall to name one. Pearsall has good separation skills like Johnson but is also an elite athlete. And with a little more size than Johnson he could potentially be a better blocker.

With less than one month between now and the NFL Draft, the clock is ticking for the Steelers to fill a few of these holes. And at this point, whoever they fill the holes with shouldn't dissuade them from making any of the above draft picks. It's been an offseason of change in Pittsburgh and they still need a few key roster moves to make noise in the 2024 NFL Season.

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