We’re just over 12 hours removed from Super Bowl 56 and the conclusion of the 2021 football season. Which means only one thing. It’s time to move onto 2022.
Fresh off the presses Monday morning is ESPN’s 2022 NFL Power rankings and frankly, the Pittsburgh Steelers finish higher than you might think. They come in at 18th place, just slightly below average, not bad for a team with no earthly idea who their quarterback will be come the fall.
In recapping the team’s status and offseason plan, Brooke Pryor writes:
“The only quarterback certainty in 2022 is that Ben Roethlisberger won’t be the starter. The Steelers have a plethora of paths forward, but they have to choose one and build the 2022 team around it. The Steelers could hold the status quo with Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins and a camp arm, or they could sign or trade for a veteran to add to the room. Both options could get them to a stronger 2023 quarterback draft class. Or there’s the option of drafting a quarterback in the first round this year. Regardless, the team has to make a plan and lay out a blueprint for the future of Steelers football.”
All options seem to be on the table for Pittsburgh, needing to find a solution under center for the first time since 2004. They are likely to add at least one outsider to the roster, but the question of who and where are the big unknowns. A trade for Jimmy Garoppolo can’t be ruled out given the near-certainty that he’ll be dealt by the 49ers this offseason. The team could go with a cheaper bridge option like Marcus Mariota or Tyrod Taylor. And there is, of course, the draft, with names like Liberty’s Malik Willis and Pitt’s Kenny Pickett connected to the Steelers during Senior Bowl week.
As Pryor notes, there are the in-house options too. Mason Rudolph is the most known guy to the team and will likely at least be in the mix for the starting gig while Dwayne Haskins is expected to be tendered by the team and carried through training camp.
Beyond quarterback, there is reason for optimism when it comes to the Steelers’ defense. They’ll enter the new year healthier with young players developing, names like DL Isaiahh Loudermilk, DB Tre Norwood, and even OLB Alex Highsmith, who finish his sophomore season on a high note. Offensively remains a muddier picture with the team needing to aggressively address its offensive line this offseason, something they failed to do a year ago.
Overall, 18th feels about right for the Steelers entering the offseason and if anything, seems a tad high. They are last of the AFC North with the Cincinnati Bengals (5th), Baltimore Ravens (12th), and Cleveland Browns (16th) all ahead of them. And they’re in a competitive conference with the top two teams representing the AFC, the Kansas City Chiefs at #1 and Buffalo Bills #2, both edging out the victorious Los Angeles Rams.
Rounding out the list are the Jacksonville Jaguars, 32nd in ESPN’s early power rankings. The Houston Texans are 31st while the Detroit Lions come in at 30th.