Could the 2022 Pittsburgh Steelers wind up being the most chaotic team in the AFC North this coming season. In a Friday post by Bucky Brooks of NFL.com that spotlighted one potential chaos team in each division, he chose the Steelers for the AFC North. His reasoning for choosing the Steelers in that division is below.
“Yes, it’s weird to talk about one of the most accomplished franchises in league history as a potential chaos team, but this is undoubtedly a transitional time for the Steelers. With Ben Roethlisberger hanging up the cleats in January, it’s the start of a new era in Pittsburgh. And in a competitive AFC North, some folks think Mike Tomlin’s due for his first losing season. Not sure I’d personally make that bet. Without the future Hall of Famer in the huddle, the Steelers could take a “back to the future” approach that prioritizes the defense and running game. The defense certainly has the pieces in place to strangle opponents, with reigning Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt flanked by All-Pro defensive tackle Cameron Heyward and playmaking safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, among others. Adding Brian Flores’ experience and expertise as a defensive assistant will only enhance the tweaks that new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin makes to the playbook, fully unleashing a unit with aggressive disruptors throughout the lineup. Although the offense will likely opt for a conservative approach behind a new quarterback — whether that ends up being free-agent signee Mitchell Trubisky or first-round pick Kenny Pickett — the presence of Najee Harris in the backfield could enable the Steelers to win with a “3 yards and a cloud of dust” mentality, at least until the new QB1 is ready to expand his role as a game manager.”
It really is hard to disagree with anything that Brooks wrote. After all, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has quite a track record when it comes to not having a losing season. Additionally, while there is a lot of uncertainty concerning the 2022 Steelers, and especially at the quarterback position, there is a chance that they get better all-around play from their signal-caller that will take over for the retiring Ben Roethlisberger. in the same breath, play from that position could wind up being worse.
The 2022 Steelers, as Brooks indicates, will rely heavily on their defense to keep them in games. The unit should be better than the 2021 unit and especially if the defensive front, which will now include added pieces this past offseason in the form of inside linebacker Myles Jack and defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi, all remain healthy.
As for the 20022 Steelers offense outside of the quarterback position, the running game will once again be leaned on quite extensively as second year running back Najee Harris should around another 375 touches this coming season. Harris will be running behind a rebuilt Steelers offensive line that now includes the likes of guard James Daniels and center Mason Cole. That position group also has a new coach in Pat Meyer.
The Steelers have been the kings of one-score games the last few seasons and they’ll likely need to continue being so in 2022 as they sure to be in several close and low-scoring games. Their first six games of the 2022 season will be quite a test and two of those will be against teams in the AFC North. Should they somehow exit those first six games with a 4-2 record with two wins coming at the hands of the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns, it’s quite possible that the Steelers indeed wind up being the chaos team of the AFC North division.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find many major media NFL analysts picking the Steelers to win the AFC North in 2022 and that’s probably just fine with head coach Mike Tomlin.
The Steelers 2022 season gets underway 58 days from today against the Bengals in Cincinnati. May the chaos commence soon.