What’s in store for your franchise in 2022? Adam Rank sets the table, providing an overview of the state of the franchise for all 32 teams, focusing on key players to keep an eye on and setting the stakes for the upcoming season.
Members of the Steelers organization, Steelers fans around the world and those fans who still think that Mario Lemieux was better than Wayne Gretzky:
Ben Roethlisberger has retired. He soaked last moments his career. But he’s not a Steelers quarterback anymore. And it marks a huge change for this organization after 18 seasons. What’s next for Pittsburgh? Let’s take a look.
One high from last season: Playoff berth after the Raiders and Chargers failed to tie in the final game of the regular season. I mean, it must have been a rollercoaster watching the Raiders and Chargers who could squeeze the Steelers out of the playoffs if they managed to tie the game. The fact that he was so close was amazing. Either way, Pittsburgh made the playoffs despite starting the season 1-3.
Cons of last season: Chase Claypool celebration of the first fall when the team was in a 2-minute exercise. Claypool’s move came in the final moments of a close loss to the Vikings in Week 14. That memory may chill Claypool’s recent claim that he is one of the top three wide receivers in the NFL.
Head Coach: Mike Tomlin. We obviously don’t know what happened behind closed doors, but seeing how the Antonio Brown era ended in Tampa Bay, is there any chance we can go back and make Tomlin retroactive coach of the year for every season Brown has spent in Pittsburgh? The way Tomlin handled these commands that aren’t exactly drama in a nutshelland yet finished .500 in each of his 15 seasons at work so far, power be more impressive than what Bill Belichick did in New England. (It’s not. But now I’m going for dramatic effect.)
A Tomlin band of 0.500 or better will be put to the test this year. But as I showed in my predictions for the upcoming season, I think Tomlin will hit the .500 mark again. (Yes, there will be a draw.)
By the way, if this interview with Tomlin does not motivate you, nothing is going.
Defender: Mitch Trubisky. I wish the Steelers would give him credit. real go with Mitch for one season to see what he can do. Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins, prior to Haskins’ tragic death in April, would have filled out the veteran QB room, and with Trubisky as the bandleader, perhaps he could make a Ryan Tannehill-like turn. After all, Trubisky was 29-21 in his career as a Bears starter from 2017 to 2020, and he has recorded winning records in his starts in three of the four years he has been there. I would just go with him for a year.
But that almost certainly won’t happen now, after the Steelers used the 20th overall pick to draft Kenny Pickett, who played college football at Pitt. Did you see how excited Franco Harris was before he shouted Pickett’s name in the 2022 NFL Draft. And not in vain. Pickett set an ACC single-season record with 42 touchdown passes in 2021 — more than he did from 2017 to 2020 combined (39). He looked good. Pickett also has dealings with his hometown. (I’m not saying the Steelers are still upset about their decision not to take some other Pitt defender in the 1983 NFL Draft, but you can’t help but see that miss looming.)
However, there were only seven quarterbacks drafted 20th overall or later who actually started the first week of their rookie season since 2015. Now some of them – Dak Prescott, Derek Carr and Russell Wilson – have turned out to be pretty good. But it’s reasonable to expect Trubisky to get the job to start the season, even if it seems like it’s only a matter of time before he is replaced by Pickett.
Predicted MVP 2022: T.J. Watt, Edge. Watt tied Michael Strahan’s record for most sacks in a single season with 22.5 last season. Only, unlike Strahan, Watt did it in just 15 games, not 16, and Brett Favre wasn’t there. looks like a less than stable target. Watt also joined Reggie White and Mark Gastineau as the only players in NFL history to lead the league in consecutive sacks. Nobody did it three times. Watt and White are also the only players to have ever recorded more than 13 sacks in four consecutive seasons.
New face: Brian Flores, senior assistant defense/linebackers. How is it that the Steelers always have top coaches like Flores on their staff? Oh, that’s right – good organizations always find a way to win by constantly looking for such great talent. Like, all time.
2022 Breakout Star: Buddy Johnson, linebacker. The 2021 fourth round pick is currently hidden in the depth table after recently signed Miles Jack and Devin Bush. But Bush, whose Pro Football Focus defensive rating ranked 58th among linebackers who played at least 50 percent of defensive snaps last season, never lived up to the expectations set when Pittsburgh selected him 10th overall in the 2019. With Flores on the staff, I’m looking for a 23-year-old Johnson to shine or at least get regular defensive snaps. I would also like to tag Alex Highsmith here so I can point it out next season when he finishes with 10 sacks.
Three key dates:
- Week 4 vs. New York Jets. The Steelers start with the Bengals, against the Patriots and the Browns, two teams that made the playoffs last year, and the Browns in general. If Mitch wins a spot in the starting lineup and struggles out of the net, this game would be the perfect spot for Pickett.
- Week 10 vs. New Orleans Saints. If you think about it maybe this is This is where Pickett could have made his debut if he needed to, allowing extra prep time during the week nine farewell and allowing the rookie to miss a tough stretch including games in the Bills, against the Bucs and in the Dolphins.
- Week 17 at Baltimore Ravens. I mean, if the Steelers make it to the playoffs, then the last two games on the list — including this game against the Ravens and the regular season finale against the Browns — seem huge. Or maybe the Steelers will just spoil it. I do not claim to know these things.
Can the Steelers…
… to prevent the line of attack from becoming a hindrance? This group has been in question in recent years. A lot of people tried to talk me out of drawing Naji Harris in fantasy last season because the line was, they said, “garbage” and the O-line did finish 26th place by PFF. However, I think the unit was decent despite being ranked (after all, Harris was fourth in the NFL in rushing with 1,200 yards), perhaps best embodied by defenseman Kevin Dotson’s decent PFF of 64.5. Pittsburgh added James Daniels, Gregg…