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What the Steelers can learn from the NFL Divisional Round participants

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By: JeremyBetz

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

A study of the remaining playoff teams can help the Steelers in their quest to build a Championship contender.

As all of Steelers Nation is acutely aware, their beloved black and gold-clad heroes have joined them on the couch for the NFL Playoffs. After watching a truly wild Wild Card weekend followed by a somewhat underwhelming Divisional Round, many fans are wondering how the Pittsburgh Steelers can ditch their sofas for a stadium come the 2023 postseason.

I believe one of the best ways to determine the answer to that question is by examining the teams that just took the field last weekend in the Divisional playoffs. Those teams are the Kansas City Chiefs, the Buffalo Bills, the Cincinnati Bengals, and the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC, and the Philadelphia Eagles, the San Francisco 49ers, the Dallas Cowboys, and the New York Giants in the NFC.

All eight of these squads have at least one of two things in common: an upper tier franchise quarterback (QB) and/or an elite offensive mind on the coaching staff. Let’s break it down.

I believe the Chiefs, Cowboys, and Jaguars actually have both a true franchise QB and an elite play caller in place. Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid in Kansas City need no endorsement from me. Dak Prescott and Kellen Moore fall into those categories in my opinion. Yes, Dak had a rough game against the 49ers. What QB hasn’t this year. But he’s also coming off an 5-TD outing again at Tampa Bay on Wild Card weekend. In Jacksonville, Trevor Lawrence has entered the upper tier of QBs for me despite an underwhelming game against the Chiefs. He’ll just keep getting better too. Doug Pederson is a Super Bowl-winning Head Coach and offensive play caller.

In San Francisco and New York, the teams may not boast a high-end QB, but both are coordinated by fantastic offensive minds in Kyle Shanahan and Brian Daboll respectively. These two guys overcome the lack of an elite QB by elevating the entire unit with their offensive schemes.

And finally, the Eagles, Bills, and Bengals all boast elite QBs in 2022. Jalen Hurts has proven to be the game’s best dual-threat QB when healthy. A true running QB who can throw down the field. Joe Burrow is the league’s most unflappable QB, and his accuracy is off the charts. Josh Allen is Superman for the Bills, despite not having as deep an offensive group around him as the other two squads in this tier.

It is plainly apparent to me that to be a true contender in today’s NFL, you MUST either have a QB that can transcend roster weaknesses that would otherwise bury his team, or an offensive designer that can elevate his QB’s play by scheming up a transcendent offensive game plan. Don’t get me wrong, great defenses are helpful. Having a great offensive line or multiple Pro-Bowlers at the skill positions is great! But to truly contend in 2023 and beyond, a team must find a franchise QB or employ an offensive genius to put it all together.

That brings us back to Pittsburgh.

A talented and improving offensive core is in place, as indicated by the team’s impressive 7-2 stretch to end the season. In light of this discussion, however, the Steelers decision to retain Matt Canada as offensive coordinator in 2023 means making the jump to true contender rests squarely on the shoulders of Kenny Pickett. This is based on the fact Matt Canada is not “That Guy” as a play caller. We’ve seen enough to know that at least. Now you need Pickett to take that step as a true franchise QB if the Steelers really want to be on the field this time next year. The Steelers can’t afford to get this wrong if they want to get a championship-starved fan base off their backs. Until the Steelers find their guy at one of these two all-important positions, I believe mediocrity is this team’s ceiling.

Originally posted on Behind the Steel Curtain – All Posts