The Pittsburgh Steelers went 9-7-1 last season, and that was in a year in which they had plenty of issues. Most of their defensive line was injured and unavailable. One of their starting wide receivers missed most of the year. The offensive line was an ad hoc mess and in a major state of transition, and the offense was filled with rookies. And then there was whatever Devin Bush was doing.
There are plenty of reasons to believe that the Steelers should be a better, more talented team this year, with the quarterback position, of course, being the biggest question mark. Can they get better play out of Mitch Trubisky and Kenny Pickett in 2022 than they did out of Ben Roethlisberger in 2021?
Perhaps defensive captain Cameron Heyward thinks so. On the second episode of his new podcast, titled simply Not Just Football, he predicted that the Steelers would go 12-5 this year. Considering they’ve only won more than nine games once in the past four seasons, that’s not insignificant.
Heyward was interviewing Dr. Britt Baker, D.M.D. at the time, a professional wrestler and dentist—and Steelers fan. At one point in the interview, he asked her how she thought the Steelers would do this year, and she hesitatingly picked eight wins. So she asked Heyward for his prediction, and that’s what he gave.
“Lofty goals, but I gotta do that. That’s my job”, he said, referring, of course, to the fact that he is, you know, an actual player on the field who can help decide outcomes of games—and make people’s predictions look genius or idiotic. “I gotta handle that and make sure you guys look right, or you guys look wrong”.
With some upgrade signings along the offensive line, as well as some natural growth, and hopefully better health luck, the Steelers should be better in the trenches this year, certainly, and that should be a significant asset to second-year running back Najee Harris, who already made the Pro Bowl last year.
While JuJu Smith-Schuster is gone, he was injured for most of the season, anyway. George Pickens will hopefully be an impactful addition to the wide receiver group in concert with Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool.
Defensively, they didn’t really lose anybody that they couldn’t afford to lose, with the most notable name being Joe Haden, whom they replaced with Levi Wallace. They also swapped out Joe Schobert for Myles Jack, and signed Larry Ogunjobi to fill Stephon Tuitt’s roster spot.
One can only hope that offensive coordinator Matt Canada, going into his second season in that post and now more free to install and implement his ideas with Trubisky and Pickett, will know how to take advantage of all this. And the new brain trust on defense, with Brian Flores brought in and Teryl Austin in a new role, is a work in progress as well.