Without regards to the quarterback position, just how talented is the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster? They do have, potentially, six Pro Bowl-caliber players returning in 2022, with Najee Harris and Diontae Johnson on offense, and Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, T.J. Watt, and Minkah Fitzpatrick on defense.
They also have huge question marks, especially on the offensive line, in the secondary, and at inside linebacker—and with depth almost everywhere. Yet you can get by pretty far with a top-heavy roster, and they do have up-and-coming players. Plus, the offseason is just getting started.
Nobody in the locker room seems to know what the Steelers are going to do with that all-important quarterback position with Ben Roethlisberger retiring. “It’s gonna be interesting”, Heyward offered on the Pat McAfee Show last month. “Are they gonna put all their trust in Mason [Rudolph] or Dwayne [Haskins], or [if not] we gotta find somebody else”.
One thing that he was decidedly not interested in was doing anything but fielding as competitive a team as they could manage, which is what the Steelers intend to do. He looks at the guys around him and sees a roster that can compete with the right pieces.
“It’s gonna be very interesting because we got T.J., we got Minkah, we got a lot of seasoned vets on the defensive side of the ball”, he said. “And then you got a guy like Najee and Diontae Johnson, you don’t want to just start from scratch. You don’t want to just go and say, ‘We’re gonna have a losing season’, and that’s not what the Pittsburgh Steelers do”.
Surely, I don’t expect anybody actually thinks that Pittsburgh would consider attempting to ‘tank’, and realistically, they do have too much talent to do it very successfully, as the 2019 season reminded. But, of course, that puts you in the position of staring down perpetual mediocrity if you always only do enough to be competitive but not enough to win significantly.
This is the water that this Steelers team, with all its talent, has been treading for the majority of the past decade, with only faint glimmers of something beyond that interspersed in between. There have been some notable regular seasons, like in 2017 and 2020. They have won some playoff games, namely in 2015 and 2016.
But they haven’t offered much else since losing in the Super Bowl in 2010. And that was before Heyward was even in the NFL. He wants to play in a Super Bowl as much as anyone. And he doesn’t want to start over. But can they realistically field a contender by the end of this offseason?