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The 2024 Pittsburgh Steelers: A Sleeping Giant

With the National Football League inching closer to the opening of training camps for all the teams, the speculation on how the Pittsburgh Steelers will fare in 2024 is that they will be competitive but fall short of a playoff run. Putting bias aside as a die hard Steelers fan, I beg to differ.

For fans of Steelers Nation like me, those who follow the team closely, we know this version of the Black and Gold about to get ready for the upcoming season is nothing short of a ticking time bomb. For the skeptics and doubters and the other 31 teams that think the Steelers will not be a major threat, they are in for a rude awakening. At the very least that is the opinion of yours truly.

Mike Tomlin and his GM Omar Khan have made MAJOR changes in the off season and by all accounts had the best draft of any team in 2024. This team is going to be downright dangerous. I believe to the point that come playoff time; the Pittsburgh Steelers will be a team that no other post season team will want to face. In the end I may end up being wrong but by all indications, I’m confident in the prospect of this being one of Mike Tomlin’s most talented teams ever.

Let’s talk about the draft. It was a known fact that Pittsburgh’s offensive line was a weak link in 2023. So, what did Tomlin and Khan do about it? They turned to the draft and with the 20th pick overall there was Troy Fautanu just waiting for his name to be called. He was hoping it would be the Steelers because one of his idols growing up was another Troy who goes by the last name Polamalu. Fautanu got a double bonus by being drafted by the team he loves and then knowing he is going to be a day one starter and bolster the Steelers’ sagging line.

Pittsburgh was not done there. Second round, a center was desperately needed, and they found an incredibly good one in Zach Frazier. The West Virginia University product should also be a day one starter. Immediately, the offensive line improved dramatically. Then came round three. Perhaps this will go down as the best third round in Steelers draft history. It was a tale of two Wilsons. First it was Roman from the University of Michigan. Fresh off a national championship, this kid should see lots of balls thrown his way in 2024. The Steelers were short of receivers until they started bringing in fresh faces.

The other Wilson drafted in the third round as well was Payton. The word on the street is that he will be the steal of the draft. Payton Wilson won all the best defensive awards last season while playing for North Carolina State and just his appearance alone spells STEELERS. He looks like the typical hard-nosed linebacker Pittsburgh coaches and fans fall in love with. If this kid is the real deal, watch out.

The rest of the draft brought in players all in need positions and Mason McCormick, Logan Lee, and Ryan Watts will all battle for spots on the roster and I’m putting my money down that all three make the opening day roster. The draft was perfectly executed to set the Steelers up for future success at all those positions.

Now the real fun talk begins. The 2024 roster is going to be littered with fresh faces and nearly all those players that were suiting up for another team last season come to Pittsburgh with talent. Let’s start at quarterback. Kenny Pickett was not the answer. Mitch Trubisky was awful. Mason Rudolph, while he played very well and got the Steelers into the postseason, was just not programmed to be the Steelers full-time long-time starter. With Russell Wilson coming in at an unheard-of bargain, Mike Tomlin and Omar Khan jumped.

I am still marveling and disbelieving that Russell Wilson is wearing a Steelers jersey. It just seems so odd. But here he is and there are those out there thinking he is washed up and not a top 10 quarterback. In fact, I heard on the radio today from a local sportscaster in Jacksonville that Deshaun Watson will outplay Wilson this season. That’s a crock. Ridiculous. Look at Wilson’s numbers last season in Denver and they were not that bad and this for a team that is nowhere near as talented as the Pittsburgh Steelers are now.

What gets me most excited about this forthcoming season is this…the attitude. Through the OTAs thus far Mike Tomlin is preaching PHYSICALITY. He wants this team to be the ones who throw the first punch in a game and never look back. He has the players talking about punishing opponents and pushing them all over the field. New offensive coordinator Arthur Smith has made it no secret that the running game will be top priority and that the tight ends will become one of the weapons looked upon to produce often. With the bolstered offensive line and Pat Freiermuth playing like a wide receiver, watch out for the monster named Darnell Washington who is a beast on the field. He blocks like a lineman and runs like a bull when he has the ball. Connor Heyward is third in line and is so aggressive.

Tomlin’s players have also bought into this attitude. They are sold on it and showing signs of carrying the plan out. This is the attitude on both sides of the ball offensively and defensively. Winning the battles up front is also the motto for every NFL team. Most of the time that is where games are won and lost.

With Diontae Johnson shipped off to Carolina, which catapulted George Pickens into the number one receiver role and Johnson’s absence left a void at receiver. But Mike Tomlin didn’t sweat, he didn't bat an eyelash. He drafted the shifty and speedy Roman Wilson, brought in a savvy Van Jefferson who had been in the league for years, and then put his confidence in the extremely fast Calvin Austin II with Denzel Mims, Dez Fitzpatrick and Marquez Callaway waiting in the wings. With the priority focused on the running game and use of tight ends, I believe this will create opportunities for the wide receiving corps when opponents least expect it.

Keep this in mind, Russell Wilson has a Super Bowl championship ring on his finger. He’s been in the league a long time and experience does count for something. Then with Kenny Pickett whining about Wilson coming in he was sent across the state to the Eagles where he will have the same role he would have had if he remained a Steeler…backup. As Pickett got on a plane to Philly, in from Chicago came Justin Fields. This is simply perfect.

Before the Pickett trade and before Mason Rudolph signed with the Tennessee Titans, I was totally against a trade for Fields. But with an empty quarterback room, I’m happy with the trade. Fields is an athlete through and through. He probably will not beat Wilson for the job, but he will be used simply because of his athleticism and ability to run with the ball. This will be a smaller sample size of Kordell Stewart again. Steelers fans will love it.

One of the areas Steelers Nation is looking forward to the most for this next season is on defense. The cliché is defense wins games and last season the Pittsburgh defense did play a major part in many of the victories. The one aspect of past Steelers teams that fans love is the defense. Even before the 1970s dynasty teams, opponents did not like playing against Pittsburgh because their defense was nasty, hard hitting, and punishing. That was only reinforced when the Steel Curtain was created and the rest of the defense that came together to terrorize the NFL.

While the Steelers have a reputation for fielding amazing linebackers, this year’s unit might very well be as good as there has ever been. We already know the capabilities of T.J. Watt, who should have been the Defensive Player of the Year last season but got robbed. Now the Steelers have added Patrick Queen via free agency and the former Baltimore Ravens stand out immediately makes a major upgrade to the Black and Gold defense. Alex Highsmith has been a complement to Watt when T.J. is keyed upon by opposing offenses, and if Cole Holcomb is healthy, he will be a force to be reckoned with. But the backups to these four are men who could easily be in the starting lineup elsewhere.

Every time Nick Herbig stepped on the field last season as a rookie he made an impact. This year’s rookie sensation will be Payton Wilson whose MO is much like Watt and Herbig. Elandon Roberts is a tackling machine. Mark Robinson has shown much promise in the past. Behind these guys are the secondary players. Joey Porter Jr. had a sensational rookie season and is now ready to have a breakout campaign as one of the best defensive backs in the league. Cameron Sutton returned to his original team and when he left through free agency, his absence was felt. Veteran DeShone Elliott comes in and his experience will count for something.

The plan on defense is to get solid play out of the corners so Minkah Fitzpatrick can roam and do damage like he did when he first came to the Steelers. Another free agent addition was that of Donte Jackson. But behind Fitzpatrick is Damontae Kazee who played very well last season when he was available. Keep your eye on Cory Trice. As a rookie last year, he never got to play because of an injury but he was wowing people in training camp last season.

As we get closer to the start of the season, think about this. Mike Tomlin has NEVER had a losing season. 17 years at the helm and never below .500. That is phenomenal. Given the talent of this year’s squad, he should keep that streak continuing and it might be years before we see a Tomlin led team lose nine or more games. Now that a 17th game has been added there can never be a finish of an even .500. There has been only one head coach to retire without a losing season and that was George Allen who was on the sidelines for 12 campaigns, but his teams never finished below .500.

Mike Tomlin is the all-time leader in consecutive winning seasons and his 17 is the record. For those who think he may not be that great a coach that record speaks for itself but not just that, in those 17 seasons, 11 were playoff years and he has also taken the Steelers to two Super Bowls winning one of those. Every NFL coach outside of Tomlin and Allen has gone through losing seasons so can you imagine if Tomlin decides to retire one day can you imagine if he does without ever having experienced a sub-par .500 season? It can happen.
As for 2024, all Steelers fans will say will be “watch out.” Steelers Nation will be incredibly surprised and disappointed if this team is not in the playoffs come postseason time. With so many fresh faces, coaching changes, and a new attitude it seems like this team will have much success.


About the author

Harv Aronson

Harv Aronson was born and raised in Pittsburgh but now lives in Florida with his beautiful wife Melissa.

Harv currently writes for Abstract Sports, the Sports History Network, Yinzer Crazy website, and the magazine Gridiron Greats. Harv wrote the published book "Pro Football's Most Passionate Fans" and as a professional writer has had articles published in an array of sports publications.

Harv loves all sports but football and baseball are at the top of his interest. His passion is for sports history. You can visit Harv's website at and you can reach him at [email protected]

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