To the surprise of many, the Pittsburgh Steelers and WR Diontae Johnson reached a two-year extension last week, ending his training camp hold-in and subsequently getting him back on the practice field. The timing of the deal as well as the length and average yearly value came as relative surprises, as Johnson was expected to want at a minimum $20 million per season. This led to the belief that Johnson would sit out for a majority of the preseason, hoping Pittsburgh would give a little on their end to meet what the rest of the WR market had been cashing in on this offseason.
Alas, GM Omar Khan and the Steelers didn’t budge on their offer, and Johnson agreed to terms with the extension, putting a large amount of money into his pocket now while giving him another bite at the apple in 2025.
Now that Johnson is inked to stay in Pittsburgh the next three seasons, what should the expectations be for the offense this season? It has often been speculated that the Steelers may struggle initially out of the gate given that they will field a new starting QB for the first time in 18 years, having Mitch Trubisky, Mason Rudolph, and Kenny Pickett duke it out this preseason to lead the charge on offense in 2022.
Still, while there is an undoubtable drop off in experience and familiarity from Ben Roethlisberger to one of the three names in question for the starting role, one can’t deny that whoever wins the starting gig will have a plethora of weapons at his disposal. The WR core got replenished with a shot of youth and explosiveness with Pittsburgh drafting George Pickens and Calvin Austin III while adding Miles Boykin and Gunner Olszewski in free agency. These names add to the depth already in the room including Johnson, Chase Claypool, and Anthony Miller to from a rather deep group at the WR position, something Pittsburgh struggled with last season with JuJu Smith-Schuster missing a majority of the season with a shoulder injury.
Pittsburgh also brings back their top two TEs in Pat Freiermuth and Zach Gentry who saw great steps forward in development under TE Coach Alfredo Roberts in 2021. Freiermuth especially was effective as a rookie, scoring seven times on 60 receptions. Roberts expects Freiermuth’s role to expand in Year Two, building off a strong showing as a rookie to potentially vault himself into the conversation of one of the best young TEs in the game.
Most importantly, whoever starts as QB for the Steelers in 2022 will have the benefit of having a bell cow RB lining up right behind him for most of the offensive snaps. Najee Harris proved last season that he can be the workhorse of the offense as he amassed 1,667 total yards from scrimmage and ten total TDs while playing 84% of the offensive snaps. He wasn’t extremely efficient as a runner on the ground, but he often made the most of the situation given to him, always fighting forward for extra yards as well as being a reliable check down option in the passing game.
With an improved interior OL and a host of young talent at the skill positions at their disposal, the winner of the QB position won’t be handicapped in terms of opportunity to succeed. When you look at the options Pittsburgh currently has on offense, you can argue that the guys they have are a better group than Trubisky has ever played with in Chicago or Rudolph had during his time as the starter in 2019.
Ultimately, the QB will have to show that they can execute and move the offense down the field on scoring drive for the 2022 Steelers to be successful. When it comes to the weaponry the starter has to work with this season, there are few excuses why they shouldn’t be able to get the job done.
What are your thoughts on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ skill positions? Do you think that they have a host of young talent for the starting QB to use this season? Is this the best skill group any QB on the roster has ever played with? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below and thanks again for reading!