In an offseason full of change, including the retirements of Ben Roethlisberger and GM Kevin Colbert, the Pittsburgh Steelers remain a rather large mystery across the NFL landscape when it comes to their 2022 outlook on the field.
The Steelers addressed the retirement of Roethlisberger by signing veteran quarterback Mitch Trubisky in free agency, and then drafting Kenny Pickett in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft, not to mention drafting well-traveled college quarterback Chris Oladokun in the seventh round of the 2022 NFL Draft.
Along with the moves at the quarterback position, the Steelers also addressed the trenches in free agency, signing veterans James Daniels and Mason Cole to shore up the interior of the offensive line, while retaining Chukwuma Okorafor at right tackle. Pittsburgh also signed linebacker Myles Jack and cornerback Levi Wallace in free agency, and later added veteran safety Damontae Kazee after the draft to provide depth in the secondary alongside Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds.
Despite the flurry of moves by the Steelers and the obvious upgrades in key positions, the NFL landscape is still rather down on Pittsburgh overall, as The Athletic slotted the Steelers in at No. 22 overall in its post-draft Power Rankings Tuesday, finishing very clearly as the fourth-best team in the AFC North, according to the Power Rankings.
“This has been an offseason of tremendous change for one of the NFL’s most stable franchises. Ben Roethlisberger retired, so the Steelers begin on-field practices this month with two new quarterbacks, free agent Mitch Trubisky and first-round pick Kenny Pickett,” The Athletic’s Lindsay Jones writes. “The Steelers like to think the rest of their roster is strong enough to remain competitive during the quarterback change. Our voters aren’t as sure, dropping Pittsburgh seven spots from where it finished last season.”
Change has certainly come to the Steelers this offseason as one era has come to a close, while another looks to start up in the Steel City again.
Though the loss of Roethlisberger to retirement certainly hurts from a perception aspect, the additions of Trubisky and Pickett should be significant upgrades on the field, at least in terms of their fit in offensive coordinator Matt Canada’s system. The mobility factor with both Trubisky and Pickett will be huge additions to the Steelers’ offense, especially after Roethlisberger was battered behind a rebuilt offensive line last season, handicapping the offense overall.
While it’s certainly fair to question the quarterback play and cite that as a reason to drop the Steelers seven spots from No. 15 to No. 22 after the draft, that’s overlooking how strong the rest of the roster is overall, at least on paper.
The offensive line is rebuilt with the likes of Daniels and Cole stepping into starting roles, which should improve Pittsburgh’s offense overall, especially in the run game with Najee Harris. Trubisky and Pickett now have a strong wide receiver room to work with as rookies George Pickens and Calvin Austin III pair with Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool. Tight end Pat Freiermuth is in line for a big second season.
Defensively, having an All-Pro at all three levels in Cam Heyward, T.J. Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick is huge, and the retention of Ahkello Witherspoon and addition of Wallace should help the secondary play at a high level overall. Add in the return to health of Tyson Alualu and (presumably) Stephon Tuitt along the defensive line, and another year removed from injury for Devin Bush, and the Steelers should be able to stop the run once again.
It’s not a Super Bowl caliber team by any stretch right now, but there’s really nothing that should have caused the Steelers to drop seven spots from No. 15 to No. 22 after the work they put in during the offseason improving the roster top to bottom.