Don’t Write Off The Steelers For 2023

The Pittsburgh Steelers have had a busy 2022 so far, yet their moves to restructure and rebuild have been largely ignored by both the NFL fans and the bookmakers compiling the NFL odds.

Admittedly, the Steelers are part of a Conference that is full of Super Bowl contenders but, even allowing for that, Pittsburgh look undervalued in the betting markets as pundits and sports bettors weigh up the 2022-23 season, which could be a big mistake.

Clearly, the majority of the concerns in Steel City this year are around the quarterback. Ben Roethlisberger has retired after an 18-year career that saw six Pro Bowl appearances, two Super Bowl victories, and an immense number of passing yards.

Either veteran, free agency signee Mitchell Trubisky or rookie, first-round pick Kenny Pickett will be in charge of directing Pittsburgh’s offense in 2022. Early practices suggest that Trubisky has a distinct advantage over Pickett, as he’s been doing most of his practice work with the first team.

However, it is clear that Trubisky is not in Roethlisberger’s class: he wouldn’t be playing for his third squad in as many years if he were. And you can be sure that Pittsburgh will want to evaluate Pickett as soon as possible if the Steelers start dropping games. But, Trubisky need not be a Roethlisberger to lead the Steelers to the postseason. In fact, they made the playoffs last year despite Big Ben’s well-documented struggles.

Trubisky may not be the best quarterback in the world, but throughout his four seasons as Chicago’s starter, he went 29-21, which is a solid record. He helped a Bears squad, that is built along similar lines to the Steelers, to make the playoffs twice in the past three seasons, including in 2018, when he finished 11-3 as the starting quarterback and earned selection to the Pro Bowl.

After being part of Matt Nagy’s scheme in Chicago, Trubisky is now playing for one of the best-coached teams in the league. And, he has plenty of weapons to utilize. Even though wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster left the team in free agency, the Steelers took steps to make up for that loss by selecting Georgia’s George Pickens in the second round of the 2022 draught. The Steelers also still have tight ends Pat Freiermuth and Diontae Johnson, and wide receivers Chase Claypool and. Running back Najee Harris, who finished fourth in the NFL, rushing in as a rookie, is ready to take a leadership role.

Then there’s T.J. Watt and the formidable Pittsburgh defense. Following a 2022 season in which he tied Michael Strahan’s single-season record for sacks (22.5), Watt was named the Defensive Player of the Year and, for the fifth consecutive season, Pittsburgh topped the league in sacks with 55 in 2021.

In addition, the Steelers’ pass defense was seventh in the league, while their vulnerability to the run should be significantly reduced with the addition of capable veterans, such as linebacker Myles Jack and defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi. The signing of fifth-year cornerback Levi Wallace was a major coup that will further boost their defensive capabilities too.

If Pittsburgh has a clear weakness, it is the same one as last year: their offensive line. There is no getting around the fact that Pittsburgh’s offensive line is a problem. However, it is worth noting that Trubisky guided a Bears squad, that was barely in the top 20 for offensive line performance, to the postseason just two years ago. And they will also have the benefit of fresh thinking in this department, thanks to the appointment of Pat Meyer, Pittsburgh’s new offensive line coach.

It is fair to say that there are a few other underappreciated teams in the AFC that have a chance of making the playoffs too. Besides, the Steelers and Pittsburgh fans should not be booking their February flights to Glendale, Arizona just yet. The AFC is absurdly strong in 2022 and this could well be a season where a 10-win squad will not make the playoffs. And Pittsburgh’s running offense and defense both need a lot of work, even if Trubisky turns out to be an effective play-caller.

It is also fair to say that those who are writing the Steelers off are doing so prematurely. This is one of the most storied franchises in the NFL, with a legacy of succeeding when written off, a resolute pass defense, a range of attacking weapons, and one of the best coaches in the NFL. Writing them off at this stage could be a big mistake.