2022 Pittsburgh Steelers Outlook

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2022 Pittsburgh Steelers Outlook

NFL

2022 Pittsburgh Steelers Outlook

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After slinking into the playoffs in 2021, the Pittsburgh Steelers are looking to reach the top spot in the AFC North in 2022.

The Steelers needed a win over the Baltimore Ravens in Week 18 of the 2021 season, as well as a non-tie in Week 18’s Sunday Night Football game between the Los Angeles Chargers and the Las Vegas Raiders. Fortunately, the Steelers took care of business in overtime against the Ravens, and the Raiders knocked the Chargers out of the playoffs.

The Steelers used that good fortune to face the Kansas City Chiefs on the road in the wild-card round on Jan. 16, 2022. The magic carpet ride came to an end against the Chiefs in a 42-21 loss. The loss turned out to be quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s final game in the NFL. In Roethlisberger’s final season, the Steelers finished with a 9-7-1 regular season record.

With Roethlisberger no longer in the facility, head coach Mike Tomlin will need someone else to step up as the team’s leader. This article will take a closer look at what to expect from the Steelers on both sides of the ball in 2022.

In 2020 and 2021, all four AFC North teams reached the postseason in at least one of those two seasons. That showed how competitive the division became over the last two seasons. The Steelers want to get back to the top of the division. With a new quarterback, general manager, and defensive coordinator, the Steelers are looking at a new future.

Offensive Outlook 

A rebuild or resurgence? It’s an intriguing question that is commonly attached to the new look Steelers offense. To say the offense was stagnant/non-existent would be selling short. A major reason… the offensive line. A year where the line ranked sixth in pressures (142) but placed 17th in pass blocking grade could send mix signals to some. When speaking on the pass-blocking rank we should add that Roethlisberger averaged an absurd 2.21 seconds per pass! The unit was heavily protected by that quick time to throw, which limited how exposed it was to rushers. 

We all know to relieve pressure off the passing game you must be able to run the ball and last year was a rough one for Steelers bell-cow running back Najee Harris and company. As a run-blocking unit the Steelers ranked 24th in grade, generating under one-yard (0.9 yards) before contact on average. Putting the offense in a lot of third and long situations, not a recipe for success. This offseason the Steelers addressed those needs with the additions of center Mason Cole and guard James Daniels giving a veteran presence to the interior line. Returning second year lineman Kendrick Green could prove to add versatility and help as well. Time will tell. 

While the offensive line is key, we question who will take the first snap opening week as the Steelers starting quarterback after the Big Ben Era. Do they hand the keys to the fresh face in Kenny Pickett, Is there new life in the veteran Mitchell Trubisky, or is this the year we see the final form of Mason Rudolph. I know one thing, Mobility eliminates a lot of issues and that’s something the Steelers are in search of. 

Kenny Pickett having a 92.3 passing grade was best among power 5 QB’s while limiting his turnovers was a huge reason for the rise of one of College Football’s biggest stars. While putting him under center is appealing, development is the biggest focal point of the decision on Pickett. Trubisky was brought in as it is his job to lose. After seeing the Matt Nagy firing, some question if it was really ever Trubisky.

With more weapons than he has ever had with a receiving core consisting of Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson, and drafting George Pickens and Calvin Austin lll after losing both JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Washington to free agency. Tight end Pat Freiermuth and Harris look to take a leap in this new-look offense. The Steelers offense looks to capitalize on youth and size to stay in contention in the AFC North. 

I predict the Steelers finishing third in the division behind the Cincinnati Bengals & Baltimore Ravens as those teams are more solid in the offensive line and Skill positions but most importantly at Quarterback. You can never count out Tomlin as he knows and firmly believes the standard is the standard. If the Steelers find some sort of stability at quarterback, don’t be surprised at this team as a dark horse late November.

Defensive Outlook

On defense, the Steelers forfeited 23.4 points per game to opposing offenses in 2021. Keith Butler, who was the Steelers’ defensive coordinator for seven seasons, retired from coaching in January 2022. Butler was with the Steelers as an assistant coach since 2003. The Steelers hired Teryl Austin as the new defensive coordinator. This was an in-house hire for the Steelers. Austin served on Tomlin’s coaching staff as a defensive assistant and a secondary coach from 2019 to 2021.

With Butler’s retirement, there is hope that the Steelers will be able to take a step forward with Austin as the defensive coordinator. Under Butler, the Steelers were ferocious when it came to rushing the quarterback. The Steelers led the NFL in sacks for five consecutive seasons until his retirement. Despite a successful pass rush unit, the Steelers had trouble stopping the run with Butler calling the plays.

Austin, who specialized in the secondary, will hopefully adjust the defense’s approach with defending against the run. He will be tasked with making important adjustments while maintaining the defense’s strengths.

One player who embodied the defense’s pass rushing strength was outside linebacker T.J. Watt. In 2021, Watt tied former New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan’s single-season sack record with 22.5 sacks. He led the NFL in sacks and was named the 2021 AP Defensive Player of the Year. Watt had a season for the ages, and he will attempt to transfer his success from 2021 to 2022.

There will be more pressure on the Steelers’ supporting cast around Watt after Steelers defensive end Stephon Tuitt retired from the NFL in June. Tuitt played eight years for the Steelers. The defensive line will be an emphasis to make up for Tuitt’s absence.

The linebackers room improved in March when the Steelers signed linebacker Myles Jack to a two-year, $16 million deal. Jack was one of the leaders with the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Steelers want Jack to be a defensive leader.

2022 will be a season for the secondary to be consistent. The Steelers made the initiative to have a consistent secondary when Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick signed a four-year, $73.6 million extension. That deal made Fitzpatrick the highest-paid safety in NFL history. Fitzpatrick was an important player for new general manager Omar Khan to keep in Pittsburgh for the future. In 2021, Fitzpatrick led the Steelers in tackles with 124 total tackles.

2022 Final Record Prediction: 8-9 Overall Record

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