An Updated Look at the 2022-2023 Pittsburgh Steelers
The 2022 NFL season is officially underway with season-opening games concluded and in Pittsburgh a new era has begun. With Ben Roethlisberger in full retirement, the Mitch Trubisky-led offense is in full swing.
Having won the starting quarterback job beating out rookie Kenny Pickett and last year’s backup, Mason Rudolph, Trubisky who was once a starter in Chicago is a starter again while sporting the Black and Gold colors.
Pittsburgh opened the season in Cincinnati and were underdogs to the defending AFC champion Bengals. By winning in overtime in what turned out to be a topsy-turvy game that resembled a heavyweight boxing match, the last solid punch that landed won the fight. Missed PATs and field goals by both teams led the game into an extra frame where Chris Boswell finally managed to nail a game-winning field goal as time in the overtime period was running out.
While Steelers fans were hoping to see a “new look” offense from Trubisky and his unit, it was Pittsburgh’s defense that stole the show. Storming out of the locker room, T.J. Watt and company looked like a playoff-ready unit as they dominated Joe Burrow and his offense nearly from start to finish. Unfortunately, Watt got hurt in the game and his status is up in the air but it appears he will be out for at least a few weeks.
Still, it wasn’t just Watt that shined. One of my favorite acquisitions in the off-season was that of former Jacksonville Jaguar Myles Jack. I believe he is going to be a major factor on defense and in week one he proved me right. Jack was second on the team in tackles with 10 including six solo takedowns. Jack also defended one pass and had one tackle for a loss.
Minkah Fitzpatrick got the Steelers on the board early with a pick-six and then finished the game with 14 tackles to lead the team 10 of those on his own. But overall, the defense was magnificent. The mighty ‘D reached Joe Burrow in the backfield seven times forcing the Bengals’ QB into throwing four interceptions and fumbling twice losing one of those loose balls.
Credit to Joe Burrow for getting his team back into the game in the second half and having the game won with just two seconds left in regulation when he hit Ja’Marr chase with a touchdown pass that tied the game at 20 and all it would take was an Evan McPherson PAT but the attempt was blocked. That sent the game into overtime.
Cincinnati had a chance to win the game in OT but the normally reliable McPherson incredibly missed a 29-yard chip shot. The Steelers would get that same chance with just 2:27 left in the overtime period and Boswell who also is a clutch kicker just barely missed the game-winner as his 55-yard attempt hit the upright on the field goal post.
After the Steelers defense held the Bengals in check, Trubisky who was not having an impressive debut outing for Pittsburgh finally put an impressive solid drive together and drove the Steelers’ offense downfield starting at his own 20 and finishing on Cincinnati’s 35-yard line where Boswell nailed a 53-yard game-winner to stun the Bengals.
With the Baltimore Ravens and Bengals favored finishing 1-2 in the AFC North, after one game the Steelers are sharing the top spot with Baltimore and the Cleveland Browns both victories in their respective season openers. Next up for Pittsburgh are the New England Patriots who will not present the caliber of team Pittsburgh has had to face in past meetings with the Pats who essentially have owned the Steelers.
As for Trubisky, with 16 games left in the regular season, the question now is how long can he remain a starter? In Cincinnati, the former Bear and Bills quarterback threw 38 passes and completed just 21 for only 194 yards while his QB rating was a disappointing 78.2. On the positive side, Trubisky did not throw an interception and was sacked just once. The offensive line was the biggest concern on offense heading into the season but that unit held up rather well better than expected. However, Pittsburgh’s running MUST improve if they plan on reaching the post-season or winning more games. In the season opener, it was Chase Claypool who had the most rushing yards with 36 while starter Nmajee Harris was nursing a bum foot and could only manage 23 yards on 10 carries.
Kenny Pickett will wait patiently in the wings but believe me, if Trubisky doesn’t start padding his stats, Steelers Nation will start calling for the rookie to become the starter. There is no doubt that one day the former University of Pittsburgh Panthers’ quarterback will be the next franchise quarterback as long as he can show that the ability is there to become a full-time starter. One problem is that Mike Tomlin named Trubisky as a team captain so it would be difficult to tell a captain he has to ride the bench.
The bottom line here is that the Steelers aren’t going to be pushovers and they appear to be coming into the 2022 season with a chip on their shoulder and some serious attitude. They should rival all three other teams in the division and as it has been the norm for years, push their opponents to the limit.