For those down on the Steelers winning games in 2022, it might be the closing moments each week that make the difference.
There are a lot of varying opinions when it comes to the 2022 Pittsburgh Steelers. Although the team has yet to put on pads in preparation for the season, it doesn’t keep the discussion and opinions from flowing freely. And it’s not that discussion and opinions are bad, it’s just very interesting to see how they go at times.
In looking at the Steelers 2022 roster, it’s easy to see where things should be improved for the season. The Steelers added two key components to the offensive line. The Steelers also have the return of Tyson Alualu for the upcoming year, and Larry Ogunjobi was added to the mix recently to help cover for the loss of Stephon Tuitt who didn’t even play last season. They swapped out Myles Jack for Joe Schobert at linebacker. Whether or not exchanging Levi Wallace for Joe Haden in the secondary will be a plus or minus is yet to be seen, but it doesn’t appear at this time to be a move that would change the Steelers record by multiple games.
One area of concern could be at wide receiver as the Steelers lost three players from last year‘s team. But the Steelers also used two of their top four draft picks on the position in 2022, and the three players who were lost all fell behind the Steelers running back and tight end in receiving yards last season, making the highest-ranked player who was lost fifth on the list.
So when others look for the Steelers to have a poor season in 2022, the biggest change and unknown factor centers around the quarterback position.
Just to give an example of some of the feelings about how the Steelers will finish in 2022, the current over/under for Steelers wins on the season is set at 7.5 games. Additionally, in a recent article by ESPN where they mocked the first round of the 2023 NFL draft, they had the Pittsburgh Steelers drafting sixth overall.
If the Steelers have worked on making improvements at so many of their positions and aren’t dealing with aging players in very many spots, the biggest factor has to be at the quarterback position. But what is it about the position which makes these so-called “experts” feel the Steelers are going to see a significant reduction in wins?
Even as the most avid Ben Roethlisberger fan, it would be foolish not to admit that he was not the same player in 2021 that he was earlier in his career. Neither his arm nor his legs were what they were even four seasons prior. With teams not respecting Roethlisberger’s deep ball, the Steelers offense was limited in things they could do. Additionally, with mobility not being a factor with Roethlisberger, it is believed the offensive schemes the Steelers wanted to institute were simply not in the cards.
So if the Steelers now have options at quarterback who can fit their system, push the ball down the field, and can possibly make plays with their legs, why is there projected to be so much of a drop off for 2022?
To me, it’s the Ben Roethlisberger ‘it’ factor.
What is ‘it’? Simple. Ben Roethlisberger, even in his final seasons with the Steelers, when the moment called for it could put the team on his back and lead them to victory. In 2021, Roethlisberger had seven game-winning drives. With the Steelers only having nine wins, that’s pretty impressive. Roethlisberger did what he had to do to win.
As the Steelers move from minicamp towards training camp later this month, a lot is going to be made of the play of the quarterbacks. Seeing how they command the huddle, find receivers, push the ball down the field, and do all the things that Steelers fans want to see, what fans won’t be able to see is the ‘it’ factor I was just describing.
Even in a preseason game, it’s just not the same to see if the quarterback is going to come through and win the game at the end. Chances are, the quarterback who’s going to lead the Steelers to start off in 2022 won’t be in the game at the end in order to win it. So what might be the biggest factor for the Steelers 2022 quarterbacks is not something fans are going to get a chance to see until September. When the game is on the line and the team needs a score, will he be able to come through?
Whether you call it the ‘it’ factor or ‘clutch’ or something else, this is what will ultimately separate the 2022 Pittsburgh Steelers from a team pushing to make the postseason or one who is getting a higher draft pick than they have seen in a long time. Ultimately, it would be great if games don’t come down to the wire for the Steelers because they have a little breathing room and don’t have to call on their quarterback to win it for them. But this is the NFL, and every franchise employs 53 professionals, not including the practice squad, to go out and keep this from happening.
The Steelers are going to be in close games in 2022. Are they going to be able to pull them out? This may be the single biggest question heading into and during the season.