The Pittsburgh Steelers are back in the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex earlier than they had anticipated, having been ousted from the postseason in the opening round, which unfortunately marks the fifth consecutive season in which they failed to win a postseason game—a new record for the franchise since the merger. Yet again, they find themselves undergoing the exit meeting process earlier than anticipated, which means so are we.
The Steelers did arguably perform at or above expectations this year by going 9-7-1 and making the postseason at all, a reflection of just how much talent they lost during the offseason, from the majority of the offensive line to Mike Hilton, Bud Dupree, Steven Nelson, and Vince Williams—not to mention Stephon Tuitt, essentially.
While we might not know all the details about what goes on between head coach Mike Tomlin and his players during these exit meetings, we do know how we would conduct those meetings if they were let up to us. So here are the Depot’s exit meetings for the Steelers’ roster following the 2021 season.
Player: James Pierre
Experience: 2 Years
Probably no player on the Steelers’ roster had a more upward-pointing arrow entering the 2021 season than James Pierre, the second-year former undrafted cornerback out of Florida Atlantic. After consistently impressing throughout the offseason, he entered the year as a top reserve and even as a situational sub-package defender.
Because of injuries, Pierre got the opportunity to start a number of games, including during a four-game stretch that Joe Haden missed in the middle of the season due to a foot injury. The only problem is he was benched halfway through that run.
Pierre’s performance on the field lacked consistency, and he had a tendency to get beaten down the field and allow big plays, which is an obvious no-no. So they took that opportunity to get veteran Ahkello Witherspoon, whom they traded for in early September, on to the field.
I don’t know that it’s even the case that Witherspoon played so well that he kept Pierre off the field, because the reality is that the Steelers completely benched Pierre from defensive play for the rest of the season. Meaning that they passed up any chance to get him on the field. Justin Layne played the snaps he would have played.
But it’s not, at least I suspect, as damning as that might sound. My belief is that they chose to keep him off of defense from that point forward to protect him. They didn’t need him to put any more bad tape out there. His confidence seemed to be suffering toward the end of his play.
They surely will continue to view him as a potential defensive contributor going forward, provided that his play justifies it. In the meantime, he continues to be a significant contributor on special teams, and may once again be the next man up in 2022.