Fresh off of a rather improbable season that saw the Pittsburgh Steelers somehow make the postseason with the roster that it did, many are now projecting a hard, rapid fall from grace for the black and gold.
Following the retirement of longtime quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and the impending forays into free agency for the likes of wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, cornerbacks Joe Haden and Ahkello Witherspoon, safety Terrell Edmunds, guard Trai Turner and right tackle Chukwuma Okorafor, the Steelers could — and likely will — look much different in 2022.
Knowing that, CBS Sports’ Jeff Kerr lists the Steelers as one of five teams in the NFL poised to take a major fall in 2022, joining the likes of the Indianapolis Colts, Las Vegas Raiders, New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“The Steelers overcame the poor play of Ben Roethlisberger in his final season and an inconsistent defense to make the playoffs, an incredible accomplishment from Mike Tomlin as he again avoided a losing season (he’s never had one in his 15 seasons as head coach),” Kerr writes. “Roethlisberger has retired and the Steelers are faced with replacing him for the first time in Tomlin’s career, with the in-house options being Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins.
“If the Steelers go with their internal options at quarterback, they won’t be AFC North title contenders in a division with the upstart Cincinnati Bengals and a Baltimore Ravens team that was first in the division until Lamar Jackson’s ankle injury proved the final nail in the coffin on a team that had 21 players on injured reserve throughout the year. Pittsburgh does have $31,206,582 in available cap space, so the Steelers can spend money and improve the pass defense, but this team isn’t competing for the AFC North until the quarterback situation is figured out.”
Again, it all comes back to the quarterback position in Pittsburgh, ignoring holes elsewhere along the offensive and defensive lines, wide receiver, inside linebacker, and the secondary overall outside of Minkah Fitzpatrick and Cameron Sutton.
Adding a quarterback isn’t the quick fix to contention that every national media outlet seems to believe it is in the Steel City. It grossly ignores the fact that the Steelers are about to see nearly 20 players hit the open market — some of them key contributors as mentioned above.
Could the Steelers take a step backward in 2022? Sure. In fact, it’s likely. But a major fall? That just isn’t something I can get on board with, especially as long as Mike Tomlin is the head coach, and guys like Cameron Heyward, T.J. Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick are on the defensive side of the football giving the Steelers a chance week-in, week-out.