Week 4 - Oct. 2, 2022 | Jets at Steelers
State of the Team
In most parts of the football universe, the notion of calling the Steelers a team in transition is borderline bizarre considering that Pittsburgh has had exactly three coaches (Chuck Noll, 1969-91; Bill Cowher 1992-2006; and Mike Tomlin (2007-Present) since Richard Nixon was president. The recent major changes were the end of Kevin Colbert's 21-year tenure as GM, replaced by 45-year-old Omar Kahn, and the Steel Curtain has come down with retirement of QB Ben Roethlisberger, who had been the Steelers' starter since 2004.
The Steelers won 9 games during the 2021 regular season and advanced to the playoffs, losing to Kansas City. Playing in the tough AFC North while also being drawn against the Jets and their AFC East rivals, Tomlin (who recently hired Brian Flores as an assistant) has never had a losing record during his 15 seasons as head coach. His track record suggests that Tomlin will find a way with a bruising defense and a quality running game despite questions at quarterback.
After spending a season as Josh Allen's backup in Buffalo, Mitch Trubisky signed a two-year deal in free agency with Pittsburgh. His NFL career began in Chicago in 2017 as the second overall draft pick and after four seasons the Bears had a 29-21 record with him at QB. In those four seasons, he completed 1,010 of 1,577 attempts (64% completions) with 64 TDs and 37 INTs for an 87.2 QB rating. Kenny Pickett, drafted this year out of Pitt, will challenge and it will be interesting to chart his progress in training camp. RB Najee Harris enters his sophomore season coming off a brilliant rookie year with 1,200 rushing yards on 307 carries with 7 TDs, and 74 receptions for 467 yards and 3TDs.
The Steelers' defensive line and LB corps still has the power to change the outcome of games on the strength of the play of the team's two edge rushers -- defensive player of the year T.J. Watt and All-Pro Cam Heyward, the 33-year-old son of the former NFL RB Craig Heyward, a New Jersey native. The twosome combined for 32.5 sacks last season, with Heyward, playing in all 17 games, logging 10 and Watt 22.5 that tied Michael Strahan for the NFL's single-season sack record. Heyward led the team with 89 tackles (53 solo); Watt led with 39 QB hits and 21 TFLs.
Biggest Offseason Addition
In mid-April, the Ravens waived WR Miles Boykin, who was claimed a day later by the Steelers. Boykin, a third-round pick by Baltimore in 2019, is coming off a season that limited him to only 8 games because of a lingering hamstring injury that landed him on injured reserve to start the season. He played in all 16 games in his two healthy seasons in Baltimore, making 32 receptions for 469 yards and 7 TDs. After the Steelers drafted Pickett in the first round, they added a pair of receivers in the second and fourth rounds in George Pickens (Georgia) and Calvin Austin III (Memphis).
The Steelers rang up a league-leading 55 sacks last season, led by Watt and Heyward; while the Jets allowed 53 sacks, fourth-most in the league. The Green & White will have to do a lot better to protect second-year QB Zach Wilson, but the offensive line is much improved. It's been bolstered by the signing in free agency of Laken Tomlinson, and a returning core that includes Alijah Vera-Tucker, George Fant, Mekhi Becton and Connor McGovern. Watt and Heyward always demand attention, but the Steelers also added in free agency LBs Myles Jack and Genard Avery, joining LB Alex Highsmith (6 sacks) and DT Chris Wormley (7 sacks).
Inside the Numbers
|Passing Yards (TDs)||QB Ben Roethlisberger*||3,740 (22)|
|Rushing Yards||RB Najee Harris||1,200|
|Receiving Yards||WR Diontae Johnson||1,161|
|Receiving TDs||WR Diontae Johnson||8|
|Tackles||S Minkah Fitzpatrick||124|
|Sacks||OLB T.J. Watt||22.5|
|Interceptions||CB Akhello Witherspoon||3|
*No longer on roster