After an off-season rife with transition and speculation, the Pittsburgh Steelers are looking to do what many are saying they can’t – field a competitive football team.
[mm-video type=playlist id=01eqbydbzmnr1bhxef player_id=none image=https://steelerswire.usatoday.com/wp-content/plugins/mm-video/images/playlist-icon.png]
After an off-season rife with transition and speculation, the Pittsburgh Steelers are looking to do what many are saying they can’t – field a competitive football team. There are still plenty of question marks looming large as the regular season approaches, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to say this season won’t, at the very least, be wildly entertaining.
The topic that has been most discussed by analysts and media on both the local and national levels is undoubtedly who will get the nod as the man under center come week one. All signs pointed to Mitch Trubisky before the team opened their preseason against Seattle on August 13th, when Kenny Pickett’s presence was met with cheers and chants and he went 13/15 for 95 yards and 2 touchdowns. The relatively clear waters became a little murky with Pickett’s stellar preseason performance, and now it’s anyone’s guess who Coach Tomlin will call on to begin the season – and it’s why the head coach has been so cryptic about making the decision. His avoidance of the topic won’t keep people from asking, but the answer isn’t going to be revealed until they’re certain and ready.
Per Good Morning Football, the quarterbacks share almost identical stats. Sure, it’s preseason. And sure, Pickett played primarily against 2nd and 3rd string guys. But his poise, composure, and confidence made the case for him as starter out of the gate that much stronger. Honestly, though, we won’t know until we know. And the debate is getting a little tiresome. People will continue to argue over which man is more worthy of the starting position, but why is the general conversation centered around disagreement when neither guy would be a bad choice? Trubisky has years of experience in the league to rely on, Pickett has the “it” factor. Either of these guys will be an upgrade over Ben Roethlisberger in his final season.
Especially when the play of the offensive line can be summed up in one word – abysmal. Between the penalties and the missed assignments, the thing that will matter most for whoever is dropping back in the pocket is that they’re mobile. Both Trubisky and Pickett have proven that they can scramble and get away from pressure, avoiding sacks and throwing on the run. Regardless of who is behind the line, they’ll have to find a way to utilize their speed and smarts to survive. They’ve both shown they’re more than capable of that.
And they’ll have plenty of weapons at their disposal. With the announcement of their initial 53-man roster, the Steelers retained 7 wide-receivers – George Pickens and Calvin Austin III being the most notable new arrivals. Pickens made a splash in camp and the preseason and should prove to be a valuable asset, not just in the passing game:
But with his ability to block for the run game, too:
On paper and in practice (through 3 preseason games), this offense is an improved one from last year. All they need to do is control more of the clock – and maybe score a touchdown or two more. With the addition of Jaylen Warren to the backfield to support Najee Harris and Benny Snell, people can reasonably hope to see more production and points out of this squad.
The defense is set to come back as one of the best in the league. The biggest problem for that unit last season wasn’t lack of ability, it was being on the field way too much. They spent the majority of the second half of every game being worn down and winded because the offense couldn’t maintain possession. Whether or not the offense can do what needs to be done, the potential is there. Tyson Alualu is back from injury, and a late trade for Malik Reed as a much-needed depth piece behind TJ Watt and Alex Highsmith. One major concern heading into week one is how they’ll respond if Devin Bush looks the way he’s looked since returning from an ACL injury sustained in 2020. They need him to play to his potential…or they need to sit him. This may be the season we finally see some difficult and necessary decisions made surrounding the fourth year linebacker.
More than likely, this team isn’t Super Bowl bound. They may not make the playoffs either, given how competitive the AFC is. But what I anticipate is another winning season for Coach Tomlin, and one full of twists and turns, thrilling storylines, and close games. After all, would it even be football season in Pittsburgh without a handful of games that cause people to lose their minds?
The Steelers open their 2022 campaign in Cincinnati against the Bengals on September 11th at 1:00.