The Pittsburgh Steelers are back in the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex earlier than they had anticipated, having been ousted before they even reached the postseason, which unfortunately marks the sixth consecutive season in which they failed to win a postseason game—tying their longest drought of the Super Bowl era. Yet again, they find themselves undergoing the exit meeting process earlier than anticipated, which means so are we.
The Steelers did arguably perform at or above expectations this year by going 9-8 and nearly making the postseason at all, a reflection of just how much talent they lost during the offseason, from Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Haden to most of their wide receiver room, not to mention Stephon Tuitt’s decision to retire.
While we might not know all the details about what goes on between head coach Mike Tomlin and his players during these exit meetings, we do know how we would conduct those meetings if they were let up to us. So here are the Depot’s exit meetings for the Steelers’ roster following the 2022 season.
Player: James Pierre
Experience: 3 Years
A former college free agent, James Pierre is still creating his identity in the NFL three years into his career. As a rookie, he was employed almost exclusively on special teams, but began to gain more trust from the coaching staff in year two—confidence that proved ill-founded. After getting the chance to start a few games due to injury, he was benched defensively for the rest of the year as he struggled to contain big plays.
The 2022 season, however, saw Pierre’s performance in coverage stabilize. He did not have as many opportunities to take the field with respect to injuries as he did the previous season, but he still managed 260 defensive snaps (and nearly 200 more on special teams).
That is notable given that he spent the season where he ended the year before, on the bench when the defense was on the field. He logged zero defensive snaps through the first four games, but was called upon a week later due to injury. He started the next two games, most notably in a strong performance against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
According to Pro Football Reference, Pierre allowed only 13 completions on 31 targets as the primary defender, surrendering 181 yards and one touchdown. He allowed 458 yards on 32 receptions from 53 targets in 2021, with four touchdowns allowed.
He snagged his second career interception last season on the second defensive play of the game against the Indianapolis Colts, reminding the coaching staff of the ball skills he has exhibited before in practice.
With the Steelers widely expected to draft a cornerback early in next month’s draft, Pierre may struggle to climb the depth chart, however. Patrick Peterson will be in the starting lineup, but it’s likely either Levi Wallace or a rookie will line up across from him, with an outside chance of it being Ahkello Witherspoon as well. He could find himself rather low on the depth chart, though that doesn’t necessary speak to his quality as a defender.