PFF Names Steelers’ Biggest Strength, Weakness, X-Factor

Pro Football Focus’ Ben Linsey recently updated his list of the biggest strengths, weaknesses, and X-factors for each NFL team. Following the 53-man roster cuts this week, there were some shake-ups in several squads. As for the Pittsburgh Steelers, there were some familiar faces returning to Linsey’s publication.

In terms of the biggest X-factor for Pittsburgh, that title goes to Ahkello Witherspoon. He was signed earlier this offseason to a two-year deal worth $8 million. Responsible for three interceptions and nine pass deflections last season, Witherspoon will be counted on to be the top cornerback, well, by default according to Linsey.

“From Week 13 through the end of the season, Witherspoon allowed a passer rating of just 20.2 on throws into his coverage. His play has been hot and cold throughout his five-year career, but the Steelers will be hoping he carries over that momentum into 2022.”

Witherspoon’s late-season surge surely played a role in Pittsburgh’s keeping him around. Flourishing in Teryl Austin’s defense, Witherspoon will be looked at to handle the opposing team’s top receiving option while playing opposite of Levi Wallace.

As far as the biggest strengths and weaknesses go, Steelers fans will obviously note that T.J. Watt and Cam Heyward continue to top the first designation. Linsey points out that both of these elite talents have been near the top of their respective positions for the last three years. That distinction is especially noteworthy in terms of pressures and run stopping. Between the two of them, they posted 123 pressures, according to PFF. Their respective run defense grades are also remarkable (89.8 for Heyward and 70.1 for Watt, respectively). Clearly, these two were easy choices.

The Steelers’ most concerning weakness on their roster is the offensive line as a whole. Linsey made sure to note that the unit was heavily aided by Ben Roethlisberger’s average time to throw of 2.2 seconds, tops in the NFL, per PFF. With an O-line that’s seen changes since last season, it’s fair to criticize and raise red flags. Several questions need to be answered with regard to this unit, especially with the situation at quarterback. For example, is Chukwuma Okorafor the future left tackle? Or are the Steelers better off keeping Dan Moore in that slot? Linsey’s naming of the O-line as the biggest weakness has merit when the tackle slots aren’t quite locked down, as you can see. The hope of fans is that this unit can gel fast enough to get off to a hot start next week against the Cincinnati Bengals.

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