Despite seeing the offensive line gel down the stretch and become a key part of the 7-2 second-half finish to a 9-8 season, Pittsburgh Steelers and GM Omar Khan and assistant GM Andy Weidl wasted no time attempting to upgrade in the trenches.
The Steelers signed veteran guard Isaac Seumalo to a three-year, $24 million contract in free agency, just days after signing guard Nate Herbig to a two-year, $8 million deal, reuniting Weidl with two former Philadelphia Eagles players, in the process shoring up the interior.
Though some questions remain regarding the tackles in the Steel City, Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox believes that the additions of Seumalo and Herbig in the trenches make the Steelers “instant contenders.”
“…The most notable addition is that of former Eagles guard Isaac Seumalo. A tremendous run blocker and pass protector, Seumalo allowed just one sack and was flagged for six penalties last season, according to Pro Football Focus. He will be an immediate upgrade over left guard Kevin Dotson, who was responsible for four sacks allowed and 12 penalties,” Knox writes. “The Steelers also added guard Nate Herbig from the New York Jets, and he can provide valuable depth on the interior. Herbig started 11 games in 2022 and allowed just a single sack, according to PFF.
“(Kenny) Pickett will have improved pass protection as he looks to take that proverbial next step in Year 2. Pittsburgh should also have better run blocking after ranking just 25th in yards per carry (4.1) last season.”
It’s a major stretch to call the Steelers “instant contenders” because they added two guards in free agency.
Granted, the addition of Seumalo is a home run for the Steelers. He’s a high-end guard that will flip back over to left guard after playing the 2022 season at right guard in Philadelphia. He will replace Dotson, who really had his struggles last season despite not missing a single snap or game.
Adding Herbig for depth as the interior swing guy is a good get, too. He’s started a number of games with the Eagles and New York Jets and brings a certain nastiness to the position in the run game, which is something the Steelers are very clearly embracing moving forward.
While the offensive line certainly got better with the moves, there are still holes along the defensive line, at cornerback, and at safety that leave real question marks for the Steelers and their ability to contend. The offense should be better in 2023 with Pickett having nearly a full year under his belt and the run game really improving in the second half of the season during that 7-2 run.
But adding one starting guard and a backup swing interior offensive lineman doesn’t make the Steelers “instant contenders.” It’s a very good step in the right direction but they’re not there just yet. Let’s see what they do in the draft before slapping the “instant contender” label on them.