After another embarrassing loss at the hands of the Minnesota Vikings, the Steelers 2021 is essentially over. This team would need to run the table with its remaining four games to even think of possibly making the post season. Nothing we have seen over the las four weeks has given us any hope that this is remotely possible. Ownership needs to take a hard look at this over the next four weeks to determine who is the problem, and who can help with the solution for next season. It’s starts with coaching, and ends with this misconstrued roster.
In all honesty, it is probably time for Mike Tomlin to go. It’s time for the Steelers to move on from Mike Tomlin His inability to put any semblance of a game plan has cost this team several games over the last few seasons. In reality, this is never going to happen in Pittsburgh however. Art Rooney II is never going to fire Mike Tomlin with the resume he has put up over the years. That’s just not the way this franchise operates.
Knowing Tomlin will be back in 2022, it is imperative they completely overhaul the coaching staff under him. Both coordinators have to go. This team needs fresh ideas from outside the organization when addressing both coordinator spots. The Steelers desperately need a competent offensive coordinator to come in and completely revamp the offense. On defense, they need a coordinator who can adjust the 3/4 scheme to fit today’s NFL. The Dick Lebeau-Keith Butler-Mike Tomlin style of defense hasn’t worked since the mid-2000s.
This is a the real dilemma with this franchise. It has long been time to find the next Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback. Instead, they have stubbornly tried to cling to the hopes of winning one more time with their aging signal caller. The problem for 2022 is there does not seem to be a franchise caliber quarterback in this upcoming draft. There also is definitely no answers in free agency either. The Steelers could try to trade for a veteran, but the assets given up to get one would basically leave them in the same situation as this year.
So do the Steelers bring Roethlisberger back for yet another season despite his severe limitations? Or do they roll the dice on someone in the draft and hope to get lucky. Keep in mind this is a franchise that thought Mason Rudolph was a first round talent. Expecting them to pick out a possible franchise quarterback out of a very flawed group in the draft would be a stretch to say the least.
There are literally only a handful of players on each side of the ball worth bringing back in 2022. On offense the short list incudes Najee Harris, Diontae Johnson, Pat Freiermuth, Ju Ju Smith Schuster, Chase Claypool, Kevin Dotson. After that, we would not be disappointed in any player not being back next season. Clearly the offensive line needs major improvement if this team expects any success whatsoever. Rookies Dan Moore Jr., and Kendrick Green have been major disappointments. Green has gotten so bad he is barley playable at this point. Injuries have forced the Steelers to stick with him despite his poor play. Pittsburgh should be set at the skill positions provided they can resign Ju Ju Smith Schuster.
The defense isn’t much better in terms of the roster. The list of must haves for 2022 are TJ Watt, Cam Heyward, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Devin Bush, Cam Sutton, Alex Highsmith, Isaiahh Loudermilk, and Chris Wormley. Nobody really knows the status of Stephon Tuitt at this point. His mystery injury will cost him the entire 2021 season, and the lingering effects of his brother’s death have been assumed to still bother him.
With Cam Heyward about to turn 33, and the unknown with Tuitt, defensive line becomes a major need this off-season. Corner is another major concern heading into 2022. Joe Haden will be a free agent, and probably not worth bringing back unless it is a very friendly team deal. Cam Sutton has proved to be an adequate number two corner, but far from a number one this team desperately needs. Terrell Edmunds is another free agent not worth bringing back, making strong safety yet another major need foe 2022.
The Cap and the Draft:
According to Spotrac, the Pittsburgh Steelers sit at nearly $46 million in cap space for 2022. https://www.spotrac.com/nfl/pittsburgh-steelers/cap/2022/ This sounds like a big number, and is indeed more than this franchise has had to spend in some time. The problem with such a big number is it usually means there are lots of holes to fill which is exactly the case with the Steelers. Trading for a big time quarterback like Russell Wilson or Aaron Rogers would eat up a significant portion of that cap room. That would improve the team at quarterback, but leave them with the same issues elsewhere.
Could they possibly talk Ben Roethlisberger into playing another season at an even further reduced salary? That option becomes more and more likely every day. Use the savings to sign a veteran lineman or two, and hope they can keep Ben upright for one las season seems to be the way to go.
Pittsburgh is in pretty good shape in their draft situation as well. The Steelers have a first, second, third, and seventh round pick of their own, and the Chiefs sixth round pick to go along with Jets seventh round pick. They traded their fourth round pick to Miami in the deal that helped them move up to draft Loudermilk. Pittsburgh also traded their fifth round pick for Avery Williamson. There will be two comp picks coming to the Steelers for the losses of Bud Dupree and Matt Feiler. Dupree could land the Steelers as high as a third round pick, but his injury likely means it will end up being a fourth. It is pretty solid that a fifth will come for Feiler. So after all the wheeling and dealing, Pittsburgh likely have a pick in every round plus an extra seventh round choice.
While the team has plenty of cap room and draft picks to significantly upgrade the roster, what happens at quarterback will determine the success or failure of the team in 2022. The Steelers have avoided addressing this issue for years, and may have to again by default. There is a path where this team can find success with Roethlisberger provided he comes back at a very low number. Investing heavily in the offensive line during free agency, then nailing several draft picks are the next step. It’s a lot to need to fall into place, but it can happen. Kevin Colbert is capable of maneuvering this roster back into respectability. Does he then have the clout to convince Tomlin to completely revamp his coaching staff? Lots of questions to be answered this off-season, should be a very interesting few months.