Pittsburgh Steelers Last Season Performance
Considering the Steelers’ numerous flaws, Pittsburgh had a successful 2021 season. After finishing 9-7-1, the Steelers placed second in the AFC North and lost to the Chiefs (42-21) in the wild-card round.
Pittsburgh’s offense lacked creativity and explosiveness. The offense ranked 21st in points per game (20.2 points) and 23rd in yards per game (312.1 yards). Ben Roethlisberger had many limits in his final season. Offensive Coordinator Matt Canada had to simplify the offense, which led to only six yards per pass attempt (30th). Running back Najee Harris and wide receiver Diontae Johnson were the bright spots as they made the Pro Bowl.
On defense, the numbers did not look any better. Pittsburgh allowed 367.6 yards per game (27th) and 20.2 points per game (21st). T.J. Watt carried the load with a historic season. The 6-foot-4 edge-rusher won Defensive Player of the Year after totaling 22.5 sacks, which tied Michael Strahan’s record.
The Steelers were not dominant on either side of the ball. Pittsburgh’s playoff appearance and 9-7-1 record were impressive considering the roster’s holes.
Pittsburgh Steelers Key Additions
Pittsburgh made large-scale changes. Addressing quarterback was the most pressing need. The Steelers signed Mitch Trubisky — who was the second pick in the 2017 NFL Draft — and drafted Kenny Pickett in the first round. Both are engaged in a competition for the starting job.
Offensive line was the next problem. Last season, the Steelers had one of the worst O-lines in the NFL. Few passing offenses flourish with poor blocking. James Daniels agreed to a three-year, $26.5 million deal. The 24-year-old guard comes off a solid season in Chicago. In addition, center Mason Cole was added in free agency.
Linebacker Myles Jack and cornerback Levi Wallace were the most notable signings on defense. Jack has immense potential with his eye-popping athleticism. Wallace brings experience as a solid cover corner.
George Pickens, DeMarvin Leal and Calvin Austin III could be immediate impacts as rookies. At 6-foot-3, Pickens could be an elite possession receiver and Austin is an explosive 5-foot-9 slot wideout. Early in the draft process, defensive tackle Leal was regarded as a potential top 5 pick. After an inconsistent season, he fell to the third round. Leal possesses freaky athleticism on a 6-foot-4, 283-pound frame.
Pittsburgh Steelers Key Subtractions
The Steelers lost a couple of long-time starters to retirement. Roethlisberger was Pittsburgh’s starting QB since 2004 and leaves behind a storied career. While his production dropped in recent years, his veteran leadership will be missed. Also, Stephon Tuitt elected to retire after an eight-year career. Tuitt was one of the NFL’s most underrated defensive linemen in 2020.
Receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Washington joined new teams. Neither should be big losses, Pittsburgh’s trio of Johnson, Chase Claypool and Pickens is a promising group. Furthermore, guard Trai Turner signed with the Commanders, but newly signed Daniels looks like an upgrade. The Steelers let CB Joe Haden walk in free agency; he remains unsigned.
Overall, Roethlisberger and Tuitt were the big losses. However, both are manageable to replace as Roethlisberger struggled last season and Tuitt missed 2021 with an injury.
Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach Analysis
Mike Tomlin is one of the most respected Head Coaches in the NFL. This year will mark his 16th season with the Steelers, making him the NFL’s second-longest tenured Head Coach behind Bill Belichick.
Pittsburgh has no losing seasons under Tomlin, three 8-8 records were the worst finishes. Tomlin has 10 playoff appearances along with a Super Bowl win in 2008. Last season is a prime example of Tomlin’s coaching ability.
The Steelers had flaws all over the roster, yet Tomlin kept his team motivated. Pittsburgh stayed competitive in most games and finished the regular season at 3-1, earning a playoff berth. Quarterbacks rule the NFL, not many teams succeeded without a good one. The Steelers, on the other hand, had a vanilla passing attack that refused to throw downfield. Making the playoffs is an achievement in itself.
Pittsburgh Steelers Injured Players at the Beginning of the Season
Pittsburgh dealt with several long-term injuries last season. Tuitt missed the entire season with a knee injury. Wideout Smith-Schuster was out most of the year with a shoulder. Tight end Eric Ebron missed the back half of the season, giving Pat Freiermuth the stage to shine. Plus, defensive back Haden missed extended time.
All mentioned players are no longer with the Steelers. The roster looks as healthy as possible. No major contributor is recovering from a season-ending injury. Key rookies look good to go. Keep an eye on Pickens, he has a long history of injuries.
Overall, Pittsburgh could not be happier with the team’s current health.
Pittsburgh Steelers Offense
Quarterback and offensive line play are question marks. Trubisky or Pickett will start; Trubisky is currently ahead in the battle. Both surely add more arm talent than a 39-year-old Roethlisberger. The Steelers desperately need a reliable deep ball. Plus, receivers that excel downfield, like Claypool, have been underutilized.
The run game is in good hands with Harris carrying the rock. With better blocking, Pittsburgh’s rushing attack could quickly become formidable. The interior offensive line was addressed with the signings of Cole and Daniels. The right side looks strong with Chukwuma Okorafor at right tackle and Daniels playing right guard.
Ultimately, the Steelers will not have an elite offense. It will not be the most explosive with great QB play. But to make the playoffs in the stacked AFC, the offense must improve.
Pittsburgh Steelers Defense
Defenses are always a threat with a superstar, especially on the defensive line. Pittsburgh has good defensive upside thanks to Watt. This unit is capable of generating many turnovers with Watt up front and Minkah Fitzpatrick in the secondary. Watt comes off five forced fumbles and Fitzpatrick snagged four interceptions with 11 passes defended in 2020. He had two picks and seven PDs in ‘21.
Linebackers will be an intriguing group with Devin Bush and Jack. Bush has flashed high potential through three seasons, but injuries have been a problem. Jack has struggled with consistency. Brian Flores will coach the Steelers’ linebackers. This bodes well for two backers that ooze talent.
Cornerback is the weakest position group. Wallace and Cameron Sutton are mediocre at best. Ahkello Witherspoon played well over the last two seasons. Pittsburgh does not have a corner with a legit upside. It is unlikely any of these CBs become a good No. 1 option with lockdown ability.
Pittsburgh Steelers Special Teams
Pressley Harvin III enters his second season as starting punter. In 2021, he averaged 43.2 yards per kick, which ranked 33rd in the league. Flipping field position could be a tall task.
Kicker Chris Boswell had a small dip in production, going from 95% field goal percentage to 90%. Boswell is still better than most kickers in the NFL. Many teams struggle for years to find a dependable kicker, like the Bears. Boswell made a career-high of eight field goals from 50 yards or beyond in 2021.
Gunner Olszewski signed a two-year, $4.2 million contract to be Pittsburgh’s return specialist. With the Patriots in 2020, Olszewski made First-Team All-Pro averaging 17.3 yards per punt return and 23.2 yards per kick return. While the Steelers have a below-average punter, Olszewski should make a dramatic difference in flipping field position.
Pittsburgh Steelers Prediction for the 2022 Season
Pittsburgh’s ceiling is perhaps one playoff win. The roster did improve, but many issues remain. Poor corner play with a mediocre QB is a bad combination. As we all know, simply running the ball and playing defense does not win championships anymore.
Furthermore, the AFC keeps improving as it adds more QB talent. Even earning a wild-card spot is difficult. And on paper Pittsburgh has the worst roster in the AFC North. If Deshaun Watson plays for the Browns, the division only gets better.
Tomlin could have his first losing season with the Steelers.
Pittsburgh Steelers Final Thoughts
The Steelers could quickly fall into a hole. The season kicks off vs. the Bengals, followed by matchups against the Patriots in Week 2, Browns in Week 3, Bills in Week 5 and Buccaneers in Week 6. Later in the season, Pittsburgh plays the Eagles and Raiders, playoff-caliber teams.
For success, Pittsburgh will have to lean on old-school football. Run the ball, dominate the clock and play stellar defense. The wide receiver unit is good, but QB is an issue. Maybe Trubisky can shock everyone and take the Steelers to the playoffs, but it seems unlikely.
The 2023 NFL Draft is the perfect time to find a franchise quarterback. Steelers fans could accept one bad season for a brighter future in the long run.
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Pittsburgh Steelers FAQs
What is the Steel Curtain?
Pittsburgh won Super Bowls in 1975, 1976 and 1979. The Steelers’ defensive line was vicious, led by Joe Greene. In 1976, Pittsburgh had arguably the greatest defense of all time. After starting 1-4, the defense did not allow a touchdown in eight of the next nine games. The nasty defensive line earned the nickname “The Steel Curtain.”
Who will the Steelers start at quarterback?
Trubisky, Pickett and Mason Rudolph are battling for the starting role. Throughout the offseason, Trubisky has been listed as the clear front runner.
Why did Pittsburgh select the team name Steelers?
Pittsburgh has a steel mill background. In 1940, the franchise asked fans for a new name. Several steel workers suggested the Steelers, which of course won the contest. Then, a logo was created in relation to the nickname. The three pointed shapes represent the materials required to create steel.
Do the Steelers have the most Super Bowl victories?
Pittsburgh is tied with New England for the most Super Bowls at six total. Before the Patriots’ Super Bowl win in 2019, the Steelers held the record since 2009.