In 2022, the offense of the Pittsburgh Steelers should be improved upon the unit we witnessed last season, led by underwhelming quarterback play from an at-the-end-of-the-road Ben Roethlisberger and also an extremely inept offensive line which, more often than not, led to the offense being behind the chains before they knew what hit them.
Big Ben’s yards-per-attempt seemed to fall off a cliff but one thing he did well was game-manage, as last season and in 2020 upon his return from elbow surgery, he didn’t throw more than ten picks. Also last season, Steelers fans were gifted a treat as the next great running back in the team’s standout history put his stamp on the record books, rushing for 1,200 yards and breaking the longtime rookie-rushing record held by Hall Of Famer Franco Harris. Harris also set a new rookie-record for most touches without a fumble, at 381, and it was also the second-most in history without a fumble.
Ball protection was a key element to Harris’ game in 2022 and will be needed next season and beyond, because one thing is for certain: even though the offense might improve, so indeed may the turnovers.
If we scroll back to the 2019 season whenever opponents were swinging helmets at Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges was a folk hero, the team turned the ball over 30 times. In fact, only five teams committed more turnovers than Pittsburgh that season. Turnovers are absolute game-wreckers and not only do they negatively affect the scoreboard, they affect the time of possession battle, something the team not so long ago was their bread-and-butter.
Chasing points and putting an offense in predictable scenarios can often lead to more turnovers, with defenses seeming to dare the opposition to run certain plays.
This new quarterbacks certainly factor into this equation as well. For Mitch Trubisky, the presumed starter to kick off the season, as high as his draft pedigree is, and for as much good as he put on his game tape during his tenure in Chicago, the one negative about that period was the turnovers.
He has 48 turnovers to his name in his five-year career, with last year being an outlier as he was a backup to Buffalo’s Josh Allen. One thing about his career thus far is whenever his main option is covered, he tends to panic and not properly go through his progressions. This often leads to him staring downs receivers, which in today’s league, is a great recipe for game-altering picks.
Trubisky does have success on shorter, quicker throws which falls in-line with the ones we’ve become accustomed to from Roethlisberger in previous seasons. He also has tremendous athleticism, as evidenced by his 5.3 career yards-per-carry on boot legs and play-action. These are the type of plays which soften up a defense, opening up throwing lanes for him.
This, coupled with the ball security we’ve come to expect from Harris, will lead to success for the offense next season. If not, the turnovers will skyrocket, the offense’s effectiveness and rankings will decrease along with the team’s playoff chances and Trubisky’s time under center will be short-lived.