For the Pittsburgh Steelers, 20 is the new 30.
The brand new offensive core for the 2022 Steelers is shaping up to be one of the youngest in the NFL. The complete re-haul of the offense within one off-season was certainly a shock to Steeler Nation everywhere, but most viewed it as a welcome change considering the offensive production (or lack thereof) during the 2021 season.
The 2021 offensive squad ranked 23rd in the league in Yards Per Game, nestled neatly between the struggling Detroit Lions and the uninspiring Chicago Bears. With Ben Roethlisberger and company only hitting the coveted 30-point plateau once during the entire regular season, Steeler Nation was primed and ready for a shakeup. They certainly got one after this year’s 2022 NFL Draft.
The young future of the Steelers
With the future of the offense shored up for the foreseeable future, Pittsburgh is going to have to lean on their wealth of experience coming from the defensive side of the ball to push them through the regular season into the playoffs. Don’t be surprised to see some rookie mistakes this year on all offensive fronts, something that Steeler Nation is certainly not used to.
Still, it’s hard to not get excited about the prospect of an offense that’s primed to produce points for years to come. The age of this new offense is unprecedented, especially with the retirement of Roethlisberger concluding the 2021 season. Newly drafted quarterback Kenny Pickett is only 23 years old. After a stellar career at the University of Pittsburgh which saw him break many of the team records set by legendary QB Dan Marino, the Steelers are confident that they’ve found their guy for the future. Teamed up with running back Najee Harris (24), wide receiver Dionate Johnson (25) and tight end Pat Freiermuth (23), other teams will be out to show the new kids on the block who’s boss. But with the raw talent on this side of the ball, coupled with a few years of experience, this unit should rival any NFL-caliber defense looking to make a stop.
Harris, a fan favorite, is coming off of an amazing rookie season in which he ranked 4th in yards, coupled with 7 touchdowns on the ground and 3 through the air. The future behind Pickett, barring any serious injuries, seems to be certain. Pickett and Harris will have a lot of time to get acquainted with being two of the main faces of the franchise.
Johnson, entering his 4th year in the NFL, has nothing left to prove in his hunt to be an elite wide-out, finishing top 5 in yards and receptions in 2021. His production is a serious problem for defensive coordinators around the league, and that shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.
Let’s not ignore the rest of the receiving core for the Steelers either, who are similarly young to the rest of the offense. Chase Claypool (23) is entering his third year of league play, looking to improve his off-field reputation as well as his deep-threat ability. Rookie Georgia wide receiver George Pickens (21) has been touted as “explosive” by offensive coordinator Matt Canada, which would compliment Johnson and Claypool nicely in the hunt for offensive production and splash plays.
The all-important offensive line, after a revamp in the off-season, looks to start melding around Pickett this year, and they certainly have the time to do it. The oldest member of the Steelers’ potential offensive line starters is Mason Cole, entering his 5th year in the league after stints with the Arizona Cardinals and Minnesota Vikings, at the ripe old age of 26.
Steeler Nation might have to be patient as this core develops into a solidified, well-oiled machine. Still, this young influence is positioning itself to be a much needed shot in the arm to a slow, inefficient offensive system that was well-ridiculed in 2021.
As we lean into the 2022 season, this new squad will have to go up against veteran defenses who, when faced with a multitude of rookies, quickly smell blood in the water. Calling it a challenge is an understatement. With all due respect to those elite teams, though, my money’s on the new kids.
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