2021 Record: 9-7-1
2022 Win Total: 7.5 Wins
Over 7.5 -105
Under 7.5 -125
Yards Per play: 28th 4.8
Yards per pass attempt: 30th 6.0
Offensive QB Sack percentage: 10th 5.35%
Yards per run: 28th 3.8
3rd down conversion rate: 17th 39.22%
Turnover Margin: 13th +0.2
Yards Per Play allowed: 24th 5.6
Yards per pass attempt allowed: 18th 6.7
Yards allowed per rush: 32nd 5.0
Defensive QB sack rate: 2nd 8.77%
Notable losses: Ben Roethlisberger QB, Juju Smith-Schuster WR, Joe Haden CB
Notable additions: Mitch Trubisky QB, Miles Jack LB, Larry Ogunjobi DT, Levi Wallace CB, Mason Cole C, James Daniels RG
1st Round Draft Pick(s): Kenny Pickett QB
Strength of schedule: 29th (1 Easiest, 32 Hardest)
The Steelers somehow found themselves in the playoffs despite pedestrian performances from Big Ben throughout the regular season. Pittsburgh tried to establish rookie Najee Harris and gave him the ball over 300 times last season. The result was uninspiring as Harris averaged a measly 3.9 yards per carry. Big Ben did no better through the air as the Steelers were 3rd from last in yards per pass attempt. Despite the lack of offense the defense stepped up and allowed the Steelers to go 7-1-1 in games decided by seven points or less. Big Ben ultimately retired after a blowout loss to the Chiefs in the playoffs.
The offensive side of the ball is tricky to predict. On paper, the Steelers have talent at every position. Diontae Johnson is a great slot possession receiver that can create space. Chase Claypool can be a physical receiver that is useful in the red zone. The Steelers obviously have Najee Harris who can do it all as a running back. Pittsburgh also has a competent pass catching tight end in Pat Freiermuth. They also drafted George Pickens in the 2nd round who can eventually fill in as the 3rd receiver. Unfortunately for the offense, the quarterback position is where this offense falls apart. While Big Ben was anything but impressive last season, he at least has experience and could make smart adjustments at the line. Whoever wins the starting job between Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph will likely be a slight downgrade from Big Ben. Trubisky is on his 3rd team in three years and couldn’t even hold down the starting job in Chicago. Hopefully what either QB lacks in decision making can be made up for in arm talent. The Steelers had to adjust their game plan due to Big Ben’s lack of arm strength. Either one of these Qbs won’t have that problem, so at least the playbook should be fully open. Where the Steelers can improve is on the offensive line. While the group did rank 10th in offensive QB sack percentage, they ranked just 28th in yards per run. If the Steelers want to ease one of their QBs into the game, they will need to improve that and allow Harris to move the chains for them. Hopefully the additions of center Mason Cole and right guard James Daniels should help. They also get another year of experience for 2nd year left tackle Dan Moore Jr, and 3rd year left guard Kevin Dotson. I like the talent at the skill positions, and the offensive line should improve slightly, but it’s hard to make a prediction when the quarterback position can be incredibly volatile.
The Steelers defense has some room to improve this season. While they fared decently in the pass game ranking 18th in yards per pass allowed, they were the worst team in the NFL in yards allowed per rush. Pittsburgh has the talent with TJ Watt getting defensive player of the year last season, and the addition of Larry Ogunjobi who recorded seven sacks last season should also provide valuable strength up front. The Steelers also added linebacker Myles Jack who has recorded over 100 tackles in back to back seasons. In the secondary the Steelers lose Joe Haden, but given the depth they have at cornerback and safety I’m confident the secondary won’t see too much of a drop off.
This could be a season of pain for the Steelers and their fanbase. Even if Big Ben was playing, I’m not confident this win total would be higher than eight games. When you go 7-1-1 in games decided by seven points or less, you are almost certainly due for regression. Combine that with the league’s 4th toughest schedule, and a QB change and you have the ingredients for a down season. I like under 7.5 wins and think the Steelers likely try to get Kenny Pickett some reps once the season is lost.