In Ben Roethlisberger’s final season, the Steelers managed to post a 9-7-1 record and squeak into the playoffs in the last week of the regular season. With the help of the Jaguars, an inept Carson Wentz, and a Brandon Staley timeout, the Steelers earned themselves a trip to Arrowhead for a Wild Card showdown against the Chiefs.
After taking a 7-0 lead early in the 2nd quarter after a scoop and score from T.J. Watt, the Steelers surrendered the next 35 points and ultimately lost the game 42-21. Roethlisberger rode into the sunset with a disappointing 29 completions on 44 attempts for 215 yards and 2 touchdowns.
As the 2022 season approaches, the Steelers will have to fill the void at starting QB for the first time in 18 years. Although Roethlisberger saw better days in his youth that made him worthy of Hall-of-Fame consideration, he left his heir with a low bar to achieve for the upcoming season. Roethlisberger was one of only 3 quarterbacks to post a negative Passing Total Points value at -5.4 and ranked 34th in yards per attempt with 6.2 (among quarterbacks with at least 100 attempts).
The options to become the next starting QB in Pittsburgh? Career backup Mason Rudolph, free agent signing Mitch Trubisky, and first-round selection Kenny Pickett will battle it out in camp to take over the starting spot. Early in camp, the rotation has been a mixed bag in terms of reps with the 1st-, 2nd-, and 3rd-string offense.. A deeper dive into the QB battle in Pittsburgh can be found here, but whoever wins the job will have a multitude of weapons to lean on.
Second-year running back Najee Harris will once again be the work horse in the Steelers backfield. After Steelers ownership called for a more productive rushing offense after the 2020 season, Harris delivered with 1,200 rushing yards on 307 carries, good for 4th and 2nd in the NFL. Although his totals were high, Harris only accumulated 3 Rushing Total Points per 60 rushes, ranking him 39th among running backs with 50 carries.
The Steelers return wide receivers Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool as well as tight end Pat Freiermuth as pass catchers. Additionally, the Steelers added George Pickens in the second round and Calvin Austin III in the fourth round of the draft. With Johnson’s contract situation in doubt as a hold-in for training camp, Pickens and Austin will have the chance to make an immediate impact. After a disappointing season due to below-average QB play, this group will look to take a step forward with a new QB.
Pittsburgh Steelers Pass Catching Production
A major question mark that will certainly factor into the success of the Steelers offense is the offensive line. Last year, the Steelers ranked 30th in Run Blocking Total Points with 70.5, adding to the inefficiency of the run game. To address this issue, the Steelers signed center Mason Cole from the Vikings and guard James Daniels from the Bears. Cole is projected to slide into the starting center spot and Daniels will replace Trai Turner at right guard. Last year’s starting center Kendrick Green will battle it out with Kevin Dotson for the starting left guard spot.
The Steelers will once again rely on the most expensive defense in the NFL if they look to make the playoffs for the third straight year. T.J. Watt returns as the reigning Defensive Player of the Year looking to build on a season where he tied the NFL record with 22.5 sacks. One area that the Steelers will have to improve on is run defense, as they only ranked 17th in Run Defense Total Points with 156.
The Steelers will have the 14th-hardest schedule in 2022 via the Total Points Team Strength Model from SIS. With a middle-of-the road schedule difficulty and a new QB, Coach Tomlin will have his hands full once again in trying to attain a winning record.
James Weaver of Sports Info Solutions Contributed to this Report