The Pittsburgh Steelers will begin a new era in 2022. Ben Roethlisberger is gone, riding off into the sunset following the 2021 season. Kevin Colbert ended his 21-year run as the team's general manager. Pittsburgh has replaced Roethlisberger with Mitchell Trubisky, signed in free agency after a year behind Josh Allen in Buffalo, and Kenny Pickett, the No. 20 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Colbert has been succeeded by Omar Khan.
Mike Tomlin is now tasked with continuing the remarkable sustained success the organization has enjoyed under Roethlisberger and Colbert. It won't be easy. So let's get into it: will the Steelers make the playoffs in 2022?
Steelers Playoff Chances
Vegas is not particularly bullish on Pittsburgh's chances to compete in the AFC North. WynnBet's most recent O/U odds put the Steelers at 7.5 wins on the year, per Betsided. It's a reasonable win total. The Steelers managed nine wins last year but benefitted from a Ravens team stricken with awful injury luck and yet another dysfunctional Browns team. Vegas is assuming, rightfully, that the Ravens will be better. As for the Browns, operating under the assumption that Deshaun Watson will be under center is perhaps misguided but all one can do for the moment. Cleveland will be much better than 8-9 if they get a full season out of the former All-Pro QB.
In regards to this iteration of the Steelers, it's hard to imagine them being much better than 2021. Roethlisberger's dwindling arm strength hamstrung the offense to a hilarious degree last year, but his season stat line of 22 touchdowns and 10 picks while completing 64.5 percent of his passes is actually better than Trubisky's last season as a starter with the Bears, where he threw 17 touchdowns and 10 picks while completing 63.2 percent of his passes. In theory, Trubisky has learned since then and will represent an improvement over 2021 Big Ben. But if he does not, then all the Steelers have is the rookie Pickett who doesn't exactly possess the skillset of somebody who can win immediately in the NFL.
On the plus side, the Steelers' defense should be around the same level of excellence in 2022. T.J. Watt's DPOY season was the main reason the team even sniffed the playoffs. As long as he and Cam Heyward continue to wreck havoc on the line while Tomlin coaches up the back end, they'll be just fine on that front.
That is really the basis of any optimism in Pittsburgh this year. If the defense can keep the game close, a smarter and more experienced Trubisky can keep the offense on track long enough to go up on the scoreboard. Najee Harris is a great running back and the receiving corps is stronger than what Trubisky worked with in Chicago. Tomlin is, obviously, very good at getting the most out of his guys.
Can the Steelers make the playoffs? For sure. They could. A few good bounces here and there during their six divisional games will put them in good position. The Steelers don't have an easy schedule, facing the AFC East and the NFC South as their division opponents this year, but only two teams from those divisions are certain to be dominant. Pittsburgh could very well end up going against a bunch of .500 squads over the course of the season and come out on top due to superior coaching or Watt's dominance, whatever you want to pick.
But it's just as likely the Steelers don't get those good bounces, they end up having to face a half-dozen playoff teams, and end up with a sub-.500 season because they just don't get enough out of Trubisky. Doubt Watt and Tomlin at your own risk. But the Steelers will have to get lucky to make the playoffs in 2022. And luck cannot be relied on.