Changes on the horizon

Changes on the horizon

Updated: 11 days, 2 hours, 48 minutes, 5 seconds ago

The Steelers' non-AFC North home schedule for the 2023 season includes a number of teams that entered the offseason following the 2022 campaign in transition.

It might also yet include the defending-Super Bowl champions.

Following is a quick look at the teams that'll be heading to Acrisure Stadium in addition to the annual visits from division opponents Baltimore, Cincinnati and Cleveland:

Arizona Cardinals (4-13, fourth, NFC West)
The Cardinals lost 11 of their last 13 games following a 2-2 start, including their last seven in succession. Arizona finished No. 22 in total offense (22nd rushing, 18th passing) and No. 21 in scoring offense (20.0 points per game), and No. 21 in total defense (14th rushing, 24th passing) and No. 31 in scoring defense (26.4 points per game).

Going from an 11-6 record and a trip to the playoffs in 2021 apparently cost head coach Kliff Kingsbury his job after three seasons. Kingsbury's replacement will be Arizona's fourth head coach since 2017.

Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins missed eight games (including the first six due to a suspension) and quarterback Kyler Murray missed the last six (ACL surgery). The Cardinals ended up having four different quarterbacks start games in '22 (Murray 11, Colt McCoy three, David Blough two and Trace McSorley one).

Defensive lineman J.J. Watt retired after leading Arizona with 12.5 sacks, seven more than defensive end Zach Allen (an unrestricted free agent).

The Cardinals have the No. 3 overall selection in the NFL Draft, the first of Arizona's eight picks.

Former Titans director of player personnel Monti Ossenfort has taken over as the Cardinals' new general manager.

Green Bay Packers (8-9, third, NFC North)
The Packers came up short of the playoffs when they lost their regular-season finale to the Lions, 20-16, on Jan. 8 at Lambeau Field.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers' reaction in the immediate aftermath triggered speculation regarding his future in Green Bay.

A subsequent appearance this week on "The Pat McAfee Show" added fuel to that fire.

"I think I can win MVP again in the right situation," Rodgers said. "Right situation, is that Green Bay or is that somewhere else? I'm not sure. But I don't think you should shut down any opportunity."

Rodgers isn't sure what he wants his future to be.

"I still need to mentally get to a point where I feel 100 percent locked in and ready to play a 19th season," he added. "And if I do, then we'll rock and roll and figure that out. If I don't, then we'll go into the jungles for a while."

The Packers were No. 17 in total offense (15th rushing, 17th passing) and No. 14 in scoring offense (21.8 points per game) and No. 17 in total defense (26th rushing, sixth passing) and No. 17 in scoring defense (21.8 points per game).

Wide receivers Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb and tight end Robert Tonyan are unrestricted free agents.

The Packers have the 15th overall pick in the draft. Green Bay is in possession of nine subsequent selections.

Jacksonville Jaguars (9-8, first, AFC South)
The Jaguars put an exclamation point on their worst-to-first regular season by defeating the Chargers, 31-30, on Super Wild Card Weekend.

Jacksonville's rally from a 27-0 deficit against Los Angeles was the third-largest comeback in NFL postseason history. The Jaguars became the first team to win a playoff game after finishing with the worst record in the league or tied for the worst record the previous season (Jacksonville was 3-14 in 2021).

The Jaguars ranked No. 10 in total offense (14th rushing, 10th passing) and No. 10 in scoring offense (23.8 points per game) and No. 24 in total defense (12th rushing, 28th passing) and No. 12 in scoring defense (20.6 points per game).

Jacksonville started 4-8 in head coach Doug Pederson's first season but won its last five, including two against division-rival Tennessee. Pederson was one of eight active head coaches to have won a Super Bowl prior to Jacksonville's visit to Kansas City in the Divisional Round.

New England Patriots (8-9, third, AFC East)
The Patriots fell from 10-7 and missed the playoffs for the second time in three seasons (the Pats' 7-9 effort in 2020 and this season's 8-9 standing were the second and third losing seasons in head coach Bill Belichick's tenure in New England and his first since going 5-11 in 2000, his first season with the Patriots).

New England was No. 26 in total offense (24th rushing, 20th passing) and No. 17 in scoring offense (21.4 points per game) and No. 8 in total defense (sixth rushing, 16th passing) and tied for No. 10 in scoring defense (20.4 points per game).

Quarterback Mac Jones' second season produced lower numbers in touchdown passes (22-14), percent of passes completed (67.6-62.5) and passing yards (3,801-2,997) in three fewer games. Jones went 6-8 in his 14 starts.

The Patriots have the 14th overall pick in the draft, the first of 11 selections at New England's disposal.

San Francisco 49ers (13-4, first, NFC West)
The 49ers went through quarterbacks (Trey Lance, Jimmy Garoppolo) and a tough start (3-4) early, but won their final 10 regular-season games and then defeated Seattle on Super Wild Card Weekend.

Brock Purdy (seventh round, 262nd overall) started the last five games in the regular season then became the first rookie quarterback with four total touchdowns (three passing, one rushing) in a playoff game in the 49ers' 41-23 victory over the Seahawks.

San Francisco was No. 5 in total offense (eighth rushing, 13th passing) and No. 6 in scoring offense (26.5 points per game) and No. 1 in total defense (second rushing, 20th passing) and No. 1 in scoring defense (16.3 points per game).

The 49ers lost their first game after acquiring running back Christian McCaffrey (44-23 to the Chiefs on Oct. 23) but haven't lost in the 11 games McCaffrey has started.

Tennessee Titans (7-10, second, AFC South)
The Titans are one of seven teams that failed to qualify for the playoffs after reaching the postseason the previous season (the Cardinals, Packers and Patriots also fall into that category among teams the Steelers will host, as do the Steelers).

Tennessee had an NFL-high 59 three-and-out possessions on offense. And with quarterback Ryan Tannehill unavailable late in the season, the Titans passed over rookie Malik Willis (third round, 86th overall) and brought in Josh Dobbs, who went 0-2 as the starter in the final two regular-season games.

The Titans were No. 30 in total offense (13th rushing, 30th passing) and No. 28 in scoring offense (17.5 points per game) and No. 23 in total defense (first rushing, 30th passing) and No. 15 in scoring defense (21.1 points per game).

Tennessee has the 11th overall pick in the draft but just six selections overall.

The Titans' offseason began with the hiring of 49ers director of player personnel Ran Carthon as their new general manager. Carthon replaced Jon Robinson.

From the AFC North:

Baltimore Ravens (10-7, second)
The Ravens, who finished second in the AFC North, already have gone through some offseason changes. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman resigned following the Ravens loss to the Bengals on Super Wild Card Weekend.

The status of quarterback Lamar Jackson, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in March, is to be determined. Baltimore is 46-19 with Jackson at quarterback over the last five seasons and 8-14 without him. Jackson missed the final four games and five overall in 2021 and the last five regular-season games in succession and the Ravens' playoff loss to the Bengals this season due to injury.

Linebacker Roquan Smith, who had a profound impact on the defense in 10 games with the Ravens after arriving in a trade with the Bears, was signed to a five-year contract extension prior to the playoff game against the Bengals.

Defensive end Calais Campbell exited his 15th NFL season contemplating his future.

"There's a chance I could be back here again next year," Campbell said.

Baltimore was No. 16 in total offense (second rushing, 28th passing) and No. 19 in scoring offense (20.6 points per game), and tied for No. 9 in total defense (third rushing, 26th passing) and No. 3 in scoring defense (18.5 points per game).

The Ravens have five picks in the draft, including the No. 22 overall selection.

Cincinnati Bengals (12-4, first)
After making a run from 5-4 through nine games to the Super Bowl in 2021, the Bengals were in the process of running it back through Super Wild Card Weekend. Cincinnati entered the playoffs at 10-7 last season and 12-4 this season (7-0 after a 5-4 start and on an eight-game winning streak overall).

Quarterback Joe Burrow announced Cincinnati's championship window is wide open and is going to stay that way for quite a while as the Bengals celebrated their division championship following a 27-16 victory over the Ravens on Jan. 8.

"The window is my whole career," he said. "Everybody that we have in that locker room, all the coaches we have. Things are going to change year-to-year, but our window is always open."

The Bengals' 24-17 playoff victory over the Ravens gave Cincinnati postseason wins in back-to-back seasons for the first time in franchise history.

The Bengals finished No. 8 in total offense (29th rushing, fifth passing) and No. 7 in scoring offense (26.1 points per game), and No. 16 in total defense (seventh rushing, 23rd passing) and No. 6 in scoring defense (20.1 points per game).

Cleveland Browns (7-10, fourth)
New defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz intends to see to it that the Browns get after the passer on his watch.

"The way you affect the game the most in this league is through pass rush," Schwartz said after being introduced in Cleveland as the replacement for Joe Woods. "We're going to put a lot of emphasis on pass rush. We'll set the bar high at the position."

On the other side of the ball, quarterback Deshaun Watson wants to take on an increased leadership role after making it onto the field for his new team for the final six games following an 11-game suspension.

"My next step in taking this team and taking that leadership role is really stepping up there and really taking this whole locker room under my wings," Watson said. "I'm looking forward to that.

"This year was kind of tough with being in the building, being outside the building, all the different changes and all the unknowns. But going into this 2023 season and having a pretty clear view of what we can look forward to, I think I can have the opportunity, and that's the role I want to make sure I challenge myself and take over."

Cleveland finished No. 14 in total offense (sixth rushing, 22nd passing) and No. 18 in scoring offense (21.2 points per game), and No. 14 in total defense (25th rushing, fifth passing) and No. 20 in scoring defense (22.4 points per game).

Cleveland has eight selections in the draft but the Browns' highest pick is in the second round.