With OTA’s finishing up this week, the Pittsburgh Steelers will have some time off before they will have to report to Saint Vincent College at the end of July for training camp.
Each new league year brings questions and expectations for all 32 NFL franchises, and with more uncertainty than they’ve had since 2004, we’ll look at three big questions that will be answered throughout the Steelers 2022-23 regular season.
1) Who Will Be QB1 for the Steelers?
Trubisky could be the safe option, at least for this season. While the 27-year-old veteran is entering his fifth season in the league having not filled expectations that come with being the second pick in the NFL Draft, Trubisky could prove as a serviceable starter for the Steelers.
Even with an unstable situation with the Chicago Bears, Trubisky posted a record of 29-21, throwing for over 10,000 yards and 64 touchdowns, and took the Bears to the postseason twice in his four seasons there. While the numbers won’t dazzle you, Trubisky has shown flashes of superb quarterback play that could work out better in OC Matt Canada’s system. He also gained experience last year learning under star quarterback Josh Allen with the Buffalo Bills.
The alternative is newly drafted quarterback out of the University of Pittsburgh, Kenny Pickett. The Steelers believe they found the future of the franchise with the hometown kid that will play pro ball in the same stadium he played college ball in, however, is the future now?
I believe Pickett should sit the first year at least and learn the system from the sideline, for a couple of reasons. I don’t believe the Steelers will pay Trubisky $14 million for him to ride the bench, nor should they. Even if Trubisky doesn’t perform well, I’m not sure it will benefit Pickett if the Steelers throw him out there before he’s ready. Not everyone can be Ben Roethlisberger, and I don’t believe Trubisky is a sub-par guy that you throw out there to “maintain” a season until you can start anew next season.
I believe there is upside to Pickett, but I’m not sure that this is the time to rush him out onto the field. It will ultimately be Head Coach Mike Tomlin’s call, but I think this should be a year to see what Trubisky can do in this offense.
2) How Much Improvement Has Been Made on the Offensive Line?
The Steelers offensive numbers last season weren’t the best, we know that they finished in the bottom half of almost every offensive statistical category, and while that’s not entirely on the offensive line, Steelers fans hope to see a big improvement this year.
The 2021-22 Steelers were 28th in yards per play, 21st in points per game, 29th in rushing yards per attempt, not to mention they allowed 38 sacks last season.
In fairness, the Steelers offensive line was riddled with injuries, not to mention losing their leader Maurkice Pouncey to retirement.
The good thing is, there’s really nowhere to go but up for the offense this season. The front office improved the offensive line with additions such as guard, James Daniels, center, Mason Cole, and tackle, Chukwuma Okorafor.
If this new group can establish continuity, as well as stay healthy, the sky’s the limit. While the fans in Pittsburgh love Roethlisberger, the offensive line this season can expect that whether it be Trubisky or Pickett, neither quarterback will likely be holding onto the ball as long as Roethlisberger used to, as well as both quarterbacks being able to use their speed more efficiently.
Having Najee Harris running behind you doesn’t hurt either, who had a fantastic rookie season despite the poor offensive line play last season.
3) What Will The Defense Look Like?
This is what I’m most excited to see this season, building off a year when the defense basically carried the Steelers to a playoff berth, you can only expect the defense to look better this season with the additions the front office has made.
The biggest piece being linebacker, Myles Jack, which could fill the gigantic hole left by Ryan Shazier in the middle of the defense. The Steelers have had somewhat of a committee approach at the linebacker positions with guys like Alex Highsmith, Devin Bush, and Joe Schobert, and having a guy like Jack could establish that leader in the middle that the Steelers have been trying to find. Not to mention that I believe Bush will have a breakout season under the leadership of Jack, along with new linebackers coach, Brian Flores.
Levi Wallace will bring pedigree to a secondary that will be losing Joe Haden, Terrell Edmunds re-signed with the team in the off-season, and to complement that, the Steelers still have dominance up front with veteran Cam Heyward and reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, TJ Watt.
I expect the issues in the run defense to correct themselves this upcoming season, and while the offense has greatly improved, I expect the defense to carry the load for this year’s team as well.
Tell us what your thoughts are on these questions, or maybe there’s a different area not covered that concerns you. Let us know below.