While the Pittsburgh Steelers had an overall solid defense last year with the major flaw—the run defense—hopefully upgraded with the return of injured starters and better luck at the linebacker level, the team has had an offense-focused past couple of offseasons, with seven of their eight top draft picks used on that side of the ball in that time.
Clearly, there was more work to do offensively than defensively, and to that end, they addressed the offensive line in free agency with the signings of James Daniels and Mason Cole, and the re-signing of Chukwuma Okorafor. They also added quarterback Mitch Trubisky in free agency, though that may have been mitigated by the draft.
The Steelers added their new franchise quarterback in the first round in Kenny Pickett, then drafted wide receivers George Pickens and Calvin Austin III in the second and fourth rounds, respectively. For good measure, they added an H-back in Connor Heyward in Round 6, and another quarterback in the seventh in Chris Oladokun.
But has that moved the needle of perception? Not, at least, for Dan Hanzus of NFL.com, who placed the Steelers 21st in his latest power rankings update—exactly where he had them before the draft occurred as well, as it happens, one of only 10 teams, including the top and bottom two, whose ranking did not change. He wrote of the Steelers:
Kevin Colbert’s final draft as Steelers GM went the way many expected. The man responsible for bringing Ben Roethlisberger to Pittsburgh targeted Big Ben’s successor with the first-round selection of Kenny Pickett. The Steelers know Pickett better than anyone — Pitt and the Steelers share the same practice facility — and it was telling how Mike Tomlin chose to answer a question about Pickett’s immediate viability as a potential Week 1 starter. “He certainly has a chance,” the coach said. “… We felt he came ready-made in those ways. Hopefully that’s an asset to him in terms of being able to compete and being ready, if his performance dictates.” The Mitch Trubisky era could be over before it even started.
So basically his entire analysis was focused on just the quarterback position, ignoring the significant upgrade to the wide receiver room. Perhaps he thinks that the difference between Pickett and Trubisky in 2022 is a wash. That remains to be seen, of course.
But 21st? isn’t that about where people had the Steelers last year? And then they made the playoffs? Do people really think this team that went 9-7-1 last year is going to have a losing record this year, even though, in most ways, they are better now than they were a year ago?
For context, Hanzus has the following teams, from 20 and on up to 11, ahead of the Steelers: the Cardinals, the Dolphins, the Saints, the Patriots, the Titans, the Eagles, the Browns, the Cowboys, the Colts, and the Ravens. Is Pittsburgh really worse off than all of these teams?