Pro Football Focus recently released their NFL power rankings ahead of the 2022 season. Here’s why they think the Steelers are ‘stuck in limbo.’
If you have scoped out Pittsburgh’s most recent odds of winning the AFC North this year, it’s no surprise to see where major media outlets have them slotted in their latest NFL power rankings.
Oddsmakers view the Steelers as a distant longshot to win the division this year, thanks in large part to the discrepancy at the quarterback position. With Joe Burrow, Lamar Jackson, and now Deshaun Watson in the AFC North, Pittsburgh has essentially been written off as a legitimate competitor this year.
Recently, Ben Linsey of Pro Football Focus followed suit. In his latest NFL power rankings, he had the Steelers listed as just the 21st-best team in the league ahead of the 2022 season in a category labeled ‘Stuck in Limbo.’ Here’s what the PFF analyst had to say about the current state of the Pittsburgh Steelers:
21. PITTSBURGH STEELERS
The Steelers have been perennial contenders for the duration of Ben Roethlisberger’s career. Their quarterback since 2004, Big Ben retired this offseason after never finishing a season with a losing record. Now, Pittsburgh needs to sustain that success with a combination of Mitchell Trubisky and Kenny Pickett at quarterback. Either player will massively change the offense that had the fastest average time to throw in 2021.
Just above the Steelers in these NFL power rankings are the Raiders, Titans, Patriots, Dolphins, and Saints. What’s concerning is that Pittsburgh was listed in the same ‘limbo’ group as teams like the Lions, Jets, Giants, and Commanders – not exactly the best of company.
Despite the Steelers being a 9-7-1 team last season that made the playoffs, most NFL analysts are writing them off before the season even begins. Their reasoning is typically the same: they no longer have a franchise quarterback. But are they giving Ben Roethlisberger too much credit?
How bad is Steelers QB situation?
Big Ben was one of the better quarterbacks in the league for much of the past two decades, and he will be a Hall of Famer someday soon. However, I think the media is giving Roethlisberger too much credit for the player he was over these past two seasons.
In both 2020 and 2021, the Pittsburgh Steelers finished the season with a winning record and made the playoffs not because of Ben Roethlisberger, but in spite of him. If you can separate the player from the performance, you would see that the 38 and 39-year-old quarterback we saw over the past two seasons was not the ‘Big Ben’ we were accustomed to.
Because of Ben’s reputation as a winner and future Hall of Fame quarterback, I think analysts have been putting too much stock into how much his departure will really affect this year. No QB in the league struggled more with passes beyond 10 air yards last year than Ben, and it stands to reason that we could actually see improved QB play by the Steelers this year – despite not even knowing for certain which quarterback will be at the helm .
If we look at the roster as a whole, it’s clear that the Steelers have improved (at least on paper). In addition to Roethlisberger retiring, Pittsburgh also lost starters like JuJu Smith-Schuster, Joe Haden, Trai Turner, and Joe Schobert. However, none of these names were particularly impressive last year, and JuJu missed a majority of the season.
In their stead, Pittsburgh has found younger, more talented players to join the team this year like James Daniels, George Pickens, Calvin Austin, and Myles Jack in addition to several other players who are sure to have sizable roles. While this doesn’t guarantee that they will be better, I certainly wouldn’t bet on them proving to be worse.
It’s pretty easy to look at both sides of the ball and see how Pittsburgh could improve all-around in 2022. Regardless of what Ben Linsey and Pro Football Focus have to say, I think there’s a solid chance that the Steelers are once again a better team than most are predicting they will be.