Pittsburgh Steelers 2024 NFL offseason primer: What do they do at QB?

Pittsburgh Steelers' 2023 season: 10-7, lost in wild card

Overview: The Steelers didn’t have a great team in 2023, or even a particularly good one, but they still found a way to win a lot of close games and make the playoffs. And despite sneaking into the postseason as the seventh and final seed in the AFC, they kept it somewhat close with No. 2 seed Buffalo in the wild-card round.

Pittsburgh never found much of an answer at quarterback as 2022 first-rounder Kenny Pickett was mostly ineffective before going down with an ankle injury in Week 13, and he didn't regain his job even when he was healthy. Backup Mason Rudolph had some positive moments, but he didn't exactly look like a franchise QB. This team probably needs to make a big swing at quarterback, and it appears to have interest in Russell Wilson, but the Steelers are in good hands as long as Mike Tomlin is overseeing their operation. He's still never had a losing season in 17 years as Steelers head coach.

(Taylor Wilhelm/Yahoo Sports)
(Taylor Wilhelm/Yahoo Sports)

Key free agents

CB Levi Wallace
QB Mason Rudolph

Who's in/out? Pittsburgh doesn’t have too much by the way of key talent hitting free agency, but Levi Wallace potentially leaving does put a spotlight on their cornerback room and the talent they need to add there. Mason Rudolph played solid at the end of the regular season and started Pittsburgh's playoff game, but he's reportedly interested in joining a new team for 2024.

Key free agent needs

Offensive line

Whether or not Kenny Pickett will be Pittsburgh's starting QB next year, the team will likely look to add at the position to create some competition. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
Whether or not Kenny Pickett will be Pittsburgh's starting QB next year, the team will likely look to add at the position to create some competition. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) (Sarah Stier via Getty Images)

Why the holes? When asked if Pickett will be the starting QB next season, Tomlin said "there will be competition," which seems like a strong indication the team plans to add to the QB room in either the draft or free agency. The Steelers are reportedly interested in pending free agent Ryan Tannehill. As for cornerback, the team needs a youth movement. Joey Porter Jr. is a star, but that group is incredibly thin as things stand right now. And offensive line is a need on a unit that lacks star power.

Do they have the money? A bit. The Steelers are projected to have $17.1 million in cap space, so there’s some more work to be done if they want to make big changes.

2023 NFLPA report card

(Yahoo Sports)
(Yahoo Sports)

Potential notable cuts

DL Cam Heyward
DL Larry Ogunjobi

Why they might be gone: The Steelers are already releasing WR Allen Robinson to save $10 million in cap space and CB Patrick Peterson to save about $7 million. Losing Cam Heyward would be a tough sentimental blow, but releasing him would also save $16 million on the Steelers’ cap. The team already announced the release of starting center Mason Cole, which will clear $4.75 million in cap space.

Draft picks

1st round: No. 20
2nd round: No. 51
3rd round: No. 84
4th round: No. 118
4th round: No. 119 (via Rams)
6th round: No. 194
7th round: No. 240

Good draft fit

Alabama CB Kool-Aid McKinstry

Why him? Look at the Steelers' cornerback room, especially in the event that Patrick Peterson and Levi Wallace don’t return. They need a body and a young contract there — easiest way to do that is the draft. McKinstry is a cornerback with huge upside and would pair nicely with Joey Porter Jr., who emerged as a star during his rookie season. They’ll need cornerback talent while facing Joe Burrow and Lamar Jackson in the division.

What can move the fantasy football needle this offseason?

We need the Steelers to enter camp with their starting quarterback situation resolved — and we really need that starter to not be Kenny Pickett, Mason Rudolph or (gasp!) Ryan Tannehill. This team’s receiving corps has the talent necessary to yield a top-10 passing offense, but Pittsburgh was nowhere close last year. In fact, they somehow finished with only 13 touchdown passes, ranking next-to-last in the league ahead of only the Jets. Kirk Cousins is the best available QB option and no doubt the prime target for Steelers fans, but Justin Fields or Baker Mayfield would nudge the needle, too. — Andy Behrens