The 2022 NFL Season is nearly upon us. As part of the run up to the season, we’re preview all the teams, culminating with our picks for who makes the playoffs and who wins the awards this season. Check back each day through September 5. Let’s get ready for some football!
The 2021 Steelers were a scrappy team. Left for dead by some, they battled their way into the post-season. The Steelers didn’t escape the Wild Card round, but they had a winning season at 9-7-1 and made the post-season to send off long-time quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in style. Ben retired this off-season, ushering in a new era for the Steelers.
With Ben gone, the Steelers looked to address the quarterback position. First, the team signed Mitch Trubisky to a two-year deal. Trubisky was once a First-Round pick by the Bears but spent last season behind Josh Allen in Buffalo. Next, the Steelers spent the No. 20 overall pick on hometown product Kenny Pickett. In four years at Pittsburgh, Pickett threw for 12,303 yards and 71 touchdowns. The veteran and the rookie join holdover Mason Rudolph in competing to fill Ben’s shoes.
The Steelers also experienced a turnover at receiver. Juju Smith-Schuster departed in free agency, signing with the Kansas City Chiefs. Meanwhile James Washington left and signed with the Dallas Cowboys. In the draft, the Steelers snagged two potential replacements. The first is Georgia receiver George Pickens, who was snagged in the Second Round. He missed most of 2021 with an ACL injury but has a tremendous amount of upside. In the Fourth Round, the Steelers took the shifty Calvin Austin III. The Memphis receiver went for more than 1,000 yards receiving in 2020 and 2021.
On defense, the Steelers added another pass-rusher in Myles Jack and added safety Damontae Kazee, who spent 2021 with the Cowboys.
Quarterback is a huge question. Will Pickett play? How much will he play? I’m likely staying away from everyone. I expect Trubisky and Pickett will both play at some point, and I don’t think either finishes higher than a QB3. The opposite is true in the backfield, where Najee Harris was RB3 in 2021. I suspect he’s a Top 5 option again in 2022.
The passing game is more of a question. Chase Claypool has made some bold statements but I still think Diontae Johnson is the best Steelers’ receiver and the one to trust. I see him finishing in WR2 range, with Claypool having some big moments and a WR4 season. Pickens will likely play a role, too, but I’m not trusting him as a week-to-week option. I do like tight end Pat Freiermuth, who quietly had a fantastic rookie season. I think he could finish Top 5 but is at least a TE1 this season.
Mike Tomlin has never endured a losing season as Steelers’ coach. It’s a remarkable run but at some point these runs end. I think it ends in 2022 as the Steelers slide to the 7-8 win range, just under .500.
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.