ESPN Predicts Steelers Will Avoid Losing Season In First Post-Roethlisberger Outing

Things often don’t tend to go well when a franchise loses its generational quarterback. Sometimes a team gets lucky and can almost seamlessly transition into the next generational arm under center. That is exceedingly rare, despite the frequent attempts to accomplish it.

The Pittsburgh Steelers do not currently have a generational quarterback on their roster between Mitch Trubisky or Mason Rudolph; at least, they haven’t shown that they is the sort of talent that they have within their first four or five seasons. If they hope to find one this year, it will have to come through the draft.

ESPN recently predicted that the Steelers’ most likely first-round selection will be a quarterback, but that hasn’t been a surprise since…well, some time in 2019 or so. More interesting is the prediction that they will manage to have a winning season in their first year after Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement:

Mike Tomlin’s streak without a losing season continues. Though the rest of the division and conference are plowing ahead with big-name signings, the Steelers are holding steady to their draft-and-develop philosophy. That method might not deliver a Super Bowl this season, but with pieces like T.J. Watt, Fitzpatrick, Myles Jack and Najee Harris, Tomlin will keep his team above .500 for the 16th straight season.

Tomlin set an NFL record last year in becoming the first head coach to begin his career with 15 consecutive seasons without a losing record. His team went 9-7-1 in 2021 and reached the postseason, albeit as a wild card, with Roethlisberger playing all but one game.

Can the Steelers go 9-8, or at least 8-8-1, without Roethlisberger? Well, they did go 8-6 during the 14 games that he missed due to injury in 2019, playing with Rudolph and Devlin Hodges under center, so we certainly can’t dismiss the possibility out of hand.

Pittsburgh did improve the offensive line with the signings of James Daniels and Mason Cole, and one can reasonably anticipate that Dan Moore Jr. will grow a bit from his rookie season. The left guard position is also not likely to be as unstable due to health as it was last year.

Does that mean that they will have a good enough offensive line to have an above-average running game? No. We won’t find out for sure until we get into the season and get some games played. But running the ball, playing good defense, and not asking too much from the quarterback position is the path that kept them out of a losing season in 2019, and it can happen again this year—to the chagrin of many fans who would rather go 0-17 than reach the Super Bowl and lose.

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