The 2022 NFL preseason is in the books, and that means the regular season is upon us. Fans across the league are eager to have meaningful football again and see how their teams look in the new campaign. Many teams have made significant changes to their rosters over the offseason, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are no exception. So it's time to make some bold Steelers predictions for the 2022 NFL season.
Legendary quarterback Ben Roethlisberger finally decided to hang the cleats up after 18 seasons with the Black and Gold. To replace him, Pittsburgh brought in Mitch Trubisky in free agency and drafted Kenny Pickett in the first round. The Steelers also maintained one of the best defenses in football, anchored by reigning Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt.
Not many have expectations for Pittsburgh this year. FanDuel lists the Steelers odds for the Super Bowl at +7000, which ranks bottom 10 in the league. Still, betting odds don't decide games, and no one truly knows what will happen this season.
With that said, here are four bold predictions for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2022 NFL season.
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4. Steelers acquire another running back
Najee Harris had a great rookie season for the Steelers in 2021. The first-round pick out of Alabama flourished with 1,200 yards and seven scores last season to lead the team. However, those stats came with a catch.
Harris didn't just lead the team in those categories, no one else even came close to him. The next closest rusher on the team was Benny Snell Jr. with a whopping 98 yards on the season. Harris was also the only Pittsburgh back with a rushing touchdown in all of 2021.
The Steelers can't give Harris that same workload again, so they need another back to compliment him. Perhaps they could trade for a back such as Minnesota's Alexander Mattison, who has been in recent trade rumors.
Regardless of how they do it, the Steelers must find someone to help take the pressure off Harris.
3. T.J. Watt wins his second straight DPOY award
Watt had been a star since he began his NFL career in 2017, but he ascended to another level in 2021. Pittsburgh's star edge racked up 22.5 sacks on the season, tying Michael Strahan's single-season record on the way to winning Defensive Player of the Year. The Steelers signed Watt to a massive extension before the season, which kicks in this season, and he is worth every penny.
The Wisconsin product is still in the prime of his career and shows no sign of slowing down. With great talent still surrounding him, Watt should have another outstanding season in 2022. He even has a great chance to win his second straight DPOY award, with the second-best odds behind only Myles Garrett.
Only two players have won the award in consecutive seasons since 2000. Aaron Donald was the most recent to do so in 2017 and 2018, and J.J. Watt, T.J.'s older brother, did it in 2014 and 2015. There's no reason why T.J. Watt couldn't follow in his brother's footsteps and go back-to-back.
2. Mike Tomlin keeps his streak of no losing seasons
Tomlin has been the Steelers' head coach since succeeding the legendary Bill Cowher in 2007. He is entering his 16th season with Pittsburgh, and, amazingly, has never had a losing season in his tenure. The team has gone .500 a few times, most recently in 2019, but never finished below that mark.
This season will be Tomlin's greatest test yet in maintaining that streak. Pittsburgh struggled at points last season, including tying with the Lions and suffering blowouts against the Bengals and Chiefs. The Steelers' schedule is also brutal this season, as they play 10 games against teams that finished over .500 in 2021.
It sounds like a daunting task, but Tomlin has proven himself to be one of the league's best coaches in his tenure. He should be able to drag this team to a winning record at bare minimum.
1. Kenny Pickett takes over the starting job midway through the season
After Roethlisberger retired, the Steelers needed something to invigorate the fan base ahead of a new era. Fortunately for them, they did just that by selecting Pickett with the 20th overall pick back in April. Pickett emerged as a star in his final season at the University of Pittsburgh, even finishing as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy.
The former Pitt Panther already endured himself to the locals in his college days, and he has made a strong first impression at the NFL level. Despite that, he technically begins the regular season as the third-string quarterback, behind both Trubisky and Mason Rudolph. While Rudolph may be on his way out of Pittsburgh, he'll still be behind Trubisky to start the season at least.
While Pickett may be a backup to start his career, it's only a matter of time before he takes over the starting job. A player of his talent, especially when he has the support of the fans, can't be on the sidelines for too long. With the Steelers' other QBs being just average, Pickett has a great chance to win the starting role later this season.
When, not if, Pickett becomes the starter, many in Steelers Nation will rejoice, and that moment of joy will likely be sooner rather than later.