PITTSBURGH STEELERS 2022 WIN PREDICTION

BY ADAM GREENE

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger took his final bow for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2021, but he wouldn’t go out without making one final playoff run. Even if that run ended like so many Roethlisberger Steeler seasons before it. But, hey, nobody complains about making the playoffs too much.

The Steelers opened the season strong, knocking off the Buffalo Bills 23-16 in a Week 1 shocker. Unfortunately for the team from Steel City, they dropped their next three games to the Las Vegas Raiders, Cincinnati Bengals and Green Bay Packers. It was a rare early season stumble for Pittsburgh and it haunted them in an ultra competitive AFC all season.

They piled up four consecutive victories to get back into the fray over sub par opponents and experienced the outright embarrassment of being the first team not to hang a loss on the then winless Detroit Lions. The game ended in a sister-kissing 16-16 tie in overtime.

That was, at least, better than losing, which is what the Steelers did in their next two games against the Los Angeles Chargers and Bengals. They entered December 5-5-1.

But injuries to Lamar Jackson meant Pittsburgh would face a Baltimore Ravens team twice without one of the league’s best players. They were games the Steelers won, including a play-in game in Week 18. The Steelers took out the Tyler Huntley led Ravens 16-13 in overtime to secure a spot in the postseason and ensure Baltimore would watch it from home.

It was clear, though, even headed into the playoffs, that this Pittsburgh team couldn’t hang with the big boys. Their final loss of the regular season was a 36-10 beat down by the Kansas City Chiefs that would be repeated in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, 42-21. Roethlisberger got to take his postseason bow, but reality won out in the end.

Big Ben finished his final campaign completing 64.5 percent of his passes for 3,740 yards, 22 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also rushed for a score. Najee Harris lived up to his draft position, rushing for 1,200 yards and seven touchdowns. He caught 74 passes for 467 yards and three scores. Diontae Johnson, maybe the most underrated receiver in the league, led the team with 107 catches for 1,161 yards and eight TDs. Chase Claypool hauled in 59 catches for 860 yards and two scores.

The defense finished No. 20 in points allowed and No. 24 in yardage allowed. TJ Watt landed on the All Pro team, nabbed the Defensive Player of the Year Award and a Pro Bowl nod by tying the NFL season record in sacks, putting 22.5 QBs down for the count. Cameron Heyward didn’t too bad on his own, recording 10 sacks.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Last season: 9-7-1

Odds: Over 7.5 wins (-130), Under 7.5 wins (+100)

2022 NFL Draft: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh (Round 1), George Pickens, WR, Georgia (Round 2), DeMarvin Leal, DT, Texas A&M (Round 3), Calvin Austin III, WR, Memphis (Round 4), Connor Heyward, TE, Michigan State (Round 6), Mark Robinson, LB, Mississippi (Round 7), Chris Oladokun, QB, South Dakota State (Round 7)

2022 Additions: Malik Reed, OLB (trade), James Daniels, OG (free agent), Myles Jack, ILB (free agent), Mason Cole, Center (free agent), Mitchell Trubisky, QB (free agent), Ahkello Witherspoon, CB (free agent), Levi Wallace, CB (free agent), Gunner Olszewski, WR (free agent), Damontae Kazee, Safety (free agent), Trenton Scott, OG (free agent), Tuzar Skipper, OLB (free agent), Ron’Dell Carter, DE (free agent), James Vaughters, DE (free agent)

Projected Starters

Offense

QB: Mitchell Trubisky

RB: Najee Harris

WR: Diontae Johnson

WR: Chase Claypool

WR: George Pickens

TE: Pat Freiermuth

LT: Dan Moore, Jr.

LG: Kevin Dotson

C: Mason Cole

RG: James Daniels

RT: Chukwuma Okarafor

Defense

LDE: Larry Ogunjobi

NT: Tyson Alualu

RDE: Cameron Heyward

WLB: TJ Watt

LILB: Devin Bush

RILB: Myles Jack

SLB: Alex Highsmith

CB: Levi Wallace

CB: Cameron Sutton

SS: Terrell Edmunds

FS: Minkah Fitzpatrick

Special Teams

PK: Chris Boswell

P: Pressley Harvin III

PR: Gunner Olszewski

KR: Gunner Olszewski

PREVIEW

The Steelers had a tough draw right out the gate having to replace Roethlisberger, a sure fire first ballot Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback. They took no chances, signing free agent and former first round pick Mitchell Trubisky and then played the draft exactly right, letting Pitt’s Kenny Pickett fall right into their lap. There’s some debate, and I’ve had them with plenty of Steelers fans, that Pickett probably wasn’t good enough to go in the first round, but for Pittsburgh, the heart wants what it wants. And the fanbase was thrilled.

Trubisky is a solid pick up and an underrated quarterback. He took the Chicago Bears to the playoffs twice with the albatross of Matt Nagy hanging around his neck. I don’t see Trubisky playing poorly enough for Pickett to really get a shot as a rookie, but that doesn’t mean the team will ultimately be successful.

The AFC is a whole different monster now and while Pittsburgh gets a break with Deshaun Watson being forced to massage himself for the first 11 weeks of the season, the rest of their schedule does them no favors.

They open at the Cincinnati Bengals and that looks like a loss to me, but I can easily see them winning the next three against the New England Patriots, the aforementioned Cleveland Browns and New York Jets. A 3-1 start would make everyone happy.

It’s the next six that’s the problem. Leading into their bye, Pittsburgh plays at the Buffalo Bills, hosts the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, then goes to the Miami Dolphins and to the Philadelphia Eagles. Out of the bye, they host the New Orleans Saints and Bengals before going to Indianapolis to face the Matt Ryan Colts. That is a recipe for disaster and if they come out of that stretch 5-6 they’ll be lucky.

Whether the schedule makers did them favors by putting both their Raven games in their final six all depends on how healthy Lamar Jackson is. Baltimore’s offense is all but destined to get him hurt again, so there’s a chance they won’t see him in either of their final match ups. And that’s probably going to be the difference in finishing with a winning record or for head coach Mike Tomlin to suffer his first sub .500 season of his 16-year career. I don’t like his odds.

Final record prediction: 8-9

Follow Adam Greene on Twitter @TheFirstMan.

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