Former Cleveland Browns and New York Jets head coach Eric Mangini may not be in the league anymore, but in his capacity with The 33rd Team, he still watches plenty of football. From what he’s seen at the end of the 2022 season and the offseason so far, Mangini expects big things from the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2023.
“This is a team…with 18 guys coming back, 18 starters coming back,” Mangini told Trey Wingo. “They finished the season as strong as anybody last year, barely missed the playoffs. And I really like what they’ve done this offseason.”
Despite missing the postseason in 2022, the Steelers were in the thick of the playoff race late in the season thanks to a four-game winning streak and winning eight of their final 10 games of the season. They only missed out on a playoff berth due to a tiebreaker that didn’t go their way with the Miami Dolphins, so there has to be a foundation to build upon. Yet the team wasn’t good enough to get into the playoffs.
Enter the 2023 offseason, the first offseason with Omar Khan as general manager. There’s no question that Khan set out to correct issues with the Steelers. Super Bowl-winning cornerback Ike Taylor called this offseason the most aggressive he’s ever seen in his time around Pittsburgh. Mangini went further in his discussion of the Steelers’ offseason, highlighting the key areas he feels that Khan specifically targeted for upgrades.
“They went out and they said we’ve got an issue on our offensive line,” Mangini said. “And they either drafted or they got five total offensive linemen. So they’re addressing the o-line problem. Then on the offensive line, they did the same thing. They either drafted or went out in free agency and they got five defensive linemen. And then the third thing they said is we need help in our secondary. Four corners and a safety, so five defensive backs… They, to me, should make a lot more noise than anybody believes in a tough division.”
Going into the 2023 offseason, the Steelers knew they had issues that needed to be addressed. Between Kenny Pickett and Mitchell Trubisky, quarterbacks were sacked 38 times over 17 games. Najee Harris, the only running back to get more than 100 carries on the season, only averaged 3.8 yards per carry. One way to improve both those numbers is to improve the blocking up front. As Mangini highlighted, the Steelers brought in five offensive linemen either through free agency or the draft. One of the most important additions up front was Isaac Seumalo, who came over from the Philadelphia Eagles after making a Super Bowl appearance last season. Other notable additions included guard Nate Herbig and rookie offensive tackle Broderick Jones, and even though he is not an offensive lineman, rookie tight end Darnell Washington should have a positive impact on the run game early in his career. While the starting five on the offensive line remains to be seen, no one can argue that Khan and his staff did not attempt to bring in talent.
Then there’s no question that the Steelers historically pride themselves on having elite defenses. However, the defense allowed 4.2 yards per carry and a total of 1,838 rushing yards while allowing opposing offenses to pass for 3,779 yards in 2022 and gave up a total of 37 touchdowns. That is not Steelers football, and Khan went to work to fix that. In the front seven, the Steelers added linebackers Cole Holcomb, Elandon Roberts, and Markus Golden, defensive lineman Armon Watts, and re-signed defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi while drafting defensive lineman Keeanu Benton and linebacker Nick Herbig. Then in the secondary, the Steelers brought in safety Keanu Neal and corners Patrick Peterson and Chandon Sullivan while re-signing safety Damontae Kazee and James Pierre. Then in the draft, they drafted cornerbacks Joey Porter Jr, son of legendary Steelers linebacker Joey Porter, and Corey Trice Jr.
While the success of all the additions remains to be seen, it can’t be said that Omar Khan didn’t identify key areas of need and attempted to address them. Mangini certainly noticed that when reviewing the Steelers’ offseason. When coupled with the success the Steelers had late in the season, it’s easy to understand why the former NFL head coach is bullish on the Steelers’ potential to “make a lot more noise” than expected in 2023.