Pittsburgh Steelers season prediction: Best and worst case scenario for 2022

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 10: T.J. Watt #90 of the Pittsburgh Steelers reacts after a sack in the first half against the Los Angeles Rams at Heinz Field on November 10, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 10: T.J. Watt #90 of the Pittsburgh Steelers reacts after a sack in the first half against the Los Angeles Rams at Heinz Field on November 10, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /

Welcome to FanSided’s 2022 NFL preview! It’s time to look into our crystal football and take a glimpse at the Pittsburgh Steelers season prediction.

Considering the circumstances, the 2021 season went about as well as Steelers fans could have hoped for. Despite being heavy divisional underdogs to begin the year, Mike Tomlin led his team to yet another winning-record season that included a playoff berth.

Pittsburgh lacked talent on both sides of the football last year, but they came out on top in a lot of close contests. With what they had to work with, the results could have been far worse.

Pittsburgh Steelers 2021 season in review

  • 9-7-1 record
  • 2nd place in the AFC North
  • Lost to the Chiefs in the Wild Card round of the playoffs

We would have loved to see Ben Roethlisberger make one final push for a Super Bowl title, but rational fans knew that this just wasn’t in the cards. It was clear that the 39-year-old quarterback didn’t have much left in the tank, and he wasn’t exactly aided by supreme offensive talent that could bail him out.

Regardless, the 2021 season turned out better than NFL experts originally anticipated. Before the start of the season, many predicted Pittsburgh would finish last in the AFC North. Despite a pedestrian offense and a defense that finished dead last in the league in rushing yards allowed and yards surrendered per attempt, the Steelers managed to once again defy the odds as they snuck into the playoffs.

This team didn’t play as well as their record would have led you to believe, but they were just one game away from claiming the AFC North title last season. Many organizations would chalk this up as a win, but this fanbase has high expectations and we haven’t tasted a playoff win since the 2016 season.

Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 NFL Draft class

  • Rd 1: Kenny Pickett, quarterback, Pittsburgh
  • Rd 2: George Pickens, wide receiver, Georgia
  • Rd 3: DeMarvin Leal, interior defender, Texas A&M
  • Rd 4: Calvin Austin III, wide receiver, Memphis
  • Rd 6: Connor Heyward, tight end, Michigan State
  • Rd 7: Mark Robinson, linebacker, Ole Miss
  • Rd 7: Chris Oladokun, quarterback, South Dakota State

For the first time since 2004, the Steelers addressed quarterback in the first round of the NFL Draft. This was a decision that wasn’t hard to predict following the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger, but it was one that was met with plenty of controversy. Most draft analysts thought this was a poor quarterback class and taking one in the first round was a gamble. Kenny Pickett will stay in Pittsburgh – the city he has called home for the past five seasons – as he continues his career with the Steelers.

In rounds 2-4, the Steelers got excellent value at the receiver with George Pickens and Calvin Austin. The team elected to double-up on WR after they lost JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, and Ray-Ray McCloud in free agency. DeMarvin Leal should also add quality depth and a pass-rush presence to the interior defensive line in the wake of Stephon Tuitt’s retirement.

It’s hard to say when Pickett will first take the NFL stage in the regular season, and he will need to show continued growth to show that he’s ready to make the leap. However, expectations are high for Pickens after being one of the standout players at Steelers training camp. Austin and Leal could work themselves into a rotation early for their respective positions.

Previewing Pittsburgh offense for 2022 season

  • Key offseason additions
    • Mitch Trubisky, QB
    • James Daniels, OG
  • Biggest X-Factor: Najee Harris, RB
  • Squeakiest Wheel: Chase Claypool, WR

There has been a lot of roster turnover since the end of the 2021 season – most of this coming on the offensive side of the ball. Pittsburgh will be replacing three starters on offense in ‘22 and several other key contributors.

The Steelers brought in Mitch Trubisky to be a stop-gap starter at the quarterback position while James Daniels and Mason Cole are the two new additions to the starting offensive line.

The biggest x-factor for the Steelers this year is running back, Najee Harris. As a rookie in 2021, Harris racked up 1,200 rushing yards and nearly 1,700 yards from scrimmage. However, his performance was only great on the surface. Harris was not very efficient as a runner or a receiver last season – averaging just 3.9 yards per carry and recording seven dropped passes. He will need to improve his efficiency if he is to help successfully lead this offense in 2022.

Chase Claypool is the biggest mystery for the upcoming season. After a spectacular rookie year in 2020, Claypool came back down to earth in 2021 as he was wildly inconsistent down the field. Now fans are interested to see if the change at quarterback will revive his career or leave us disappointed.

The offense as a whole could really struggle in 2022. The Steelers have one of the youngest projected starting offensive lines in the NFL and this unit wasn’t good a season ago. Trubiksy also has an uphill battle as he tries to go toe-to-toe with gifted quarterbacks from a stacked conference in the AFC.

Previewing Pittsburgh Steelers defense for 2022 season

  • Key offseason additions
    • Larry Ogunjobi, DT
    • Myles Jack, LB
    • Levi Wallace, CB
  • Biggest X-Factor: T.J. Watt, DE
  • Squeakiest Wheel: Devin Bush, LB

Tuitt never suited up for a single contest in 2021, and now he is officially retired. Pittsburgh’s defensive line struggled as a result last season and the Steelers made an effort to soften the blow by adding DeMarvin Leal and Larry Ogunjobi. Leal’s role could be limited to a rotation on the interior defensive line early, but Ogunjobi could carve out significant usage in 2022.

Myles Jack was a fan-favorite signing this offseason after Pittsburgh’s linebackers were routinely torched in 2021. Jack had a bit of an off year with the Jaguars before being released, but the former second-round pick could provide a spark to this defense. The Steelers also added former Bills starting cornerback, Levi Wallace, who will offer much-needed depth in the secondary.

Once again, Watt will be the engine that keeps this defense running. However, his health will have major implications on the success of this unit in 2022. Last year, Pittsburgh really struggled when Watt was forced to miss action due to lingering hip, knee, and groin issues. He will need to stay healthy for this team to return to peak form.

Devin Bush is the biggest question mark of the group. Many fans have already given up on him, but the Steelers don’t seem to be as willing to do so. In 2019, Pittsburgh traded up to the 10th overall pick in the draft to select Bush, but he hasn’t come close to living up to his billing. Bush just turned 24 years old before training camp. If he can take a step forward, this would prove to be huge for the team.

Overall, this team still has three former All-Pro players in Watt, Cameron Heyward, and Minkah Fitzpatrick. If they can get some much-needed help from their supporting cast, the Steelers will have a chance to rise up and be a top-ten defense in 2022.

Pittsburgh Steelers coaching staff overview

  • Head Coach: Mike Tomlin
  • Off. Coordinator: Matt Canada
  • Def. Coordinator: Teryl Austin

Tomlin is entering his sixteenth season as the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers. While it’s hard to argue with the fact that he has never had a losing-record season, fans are getting restless as they long for a playoff win. However, Tomlin’s job is as safe as anyone’s. Even if his team has a down season in 2023, he’s not going anywhere.

For offensive coordinator Canada, however, this is a do-or-die season. The Steelers made another internal hiring by promoting their quarterback coach to be the OC in Pittsburgh in 2021. Fans thought that Canada’s offense would have been more creative, but he failed to deliver on those promises. With another underwhelming season in 2022, Canada could fall out of favor.

Meanwhile, Austin will take over defensive coordinator duties. This was another promotion from within as the team elected to part ways with Keith Butler. The team also signed former Dolphins head coach, Brian Flores, to be a senior defensive assistant and linebackers coach. Together, Austin and Flores will look to get this defense back on track in 2022.

Pittsburgh Steelers Awards Watch for 2022 season

Once again, Watt should be a candidate to repeat when it comes to the Defensive Player of the Year award. He has finished top-three in voting since 2019 and claimed his first DPOY title in 2021.

In the past, Roethlisberger has been a Comeback Player of the Year candidate while Fitzpatrick was a longshot for DPOY in 2019 and 2020. Here are a few players who could reel in some personal accolades in 2022:

T.J. Watt, MVP

No defensive player has won the NFL MVP award since Lawrence Taylor in 1986. In today’s quarterback-driven league, that isn’t likely to change. Sadly, the Steelers aren’t going to have an MVP candidate on the offensive side of the football – even if they pepper Harris with 400 touches.

Despite what history says, Watt still has a better chance of bringing this reward home than any player on Pittsburgh’s roster. Last season, he recorded 22.5 sacks despite missing two full games and leaving the contest early in four others. If health is not an issue and he can somehow build on his incredible 2021 season, Watt could earn some votes for MVP in 2022.

Kenny Pickett, Offensive Rookie of the Year

Pickett would be a strong Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate due to the fact that no other rookie quarterbacks are projected to start in 2022. However, he isn’t guaranteed to see the field early either.

If Pickett starts at some point in the first half of the season, this award isn’t completely out of reach. While this award isn’t guaranteed to go to a quarterback, that has been the case in two of the past three seasons. Still, Pickett would have to be impressive the moment he steps onto the field. It seems most likely that one of the talented receivers from the 2022 draft class will take home this award this year.

George Pickens, Offensive Rookie of the Year

If Pickett can’t make a case for Offensive Rookie of the Year, perhaps Pickens can. Though there were 10 receivers selected ahead of him in the draft, Pickens possesses as much talent as any of them and he really turned heads at Steelers camp.

This would probably require Pickens to leapfrog Claypool on the depth chart as well as steal some of the market share from last year’s number one receiver, Diontae Johnson. Still, this isn’t out of the realm of possibility for the former five-star recruit.

Biggest game on Pittsburgh Steelers schedule in 2022

The biggest game on Pittsburgh’s schedule might be Week 11 against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday Night Football. The Steelers get a daunting matchup against the Bengals in Week 1 on the road, and if things go south, they will be looking for revenge.

Last year, the Steelers were swept by Cincinnati – getting outscored 65-20 in their two divisional games against the Bengals last season. Winning just one of these would have been the difference in claiming the division and possibly making it further in the playoffs.

This is a tough matchup against a high-powered passing attack, but the Steelers need to at least come away with one game against the Bengals in 2022. This primetime game at home will be huge.

Pittsburgh Steelers season prediction: Best-case scenario

Pittsburgh is certainly capable of making the playoffs again in 2022, but the defense will have to be much-improved in order to do so.

Once in the tournament, anything can happen. However, the odds of Mitch Trubisky or any Steelers quarterback being able to best superior players like Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, or Joe Burrow in consecutive weeks doesn’t seem likely.

If all goes well this season, Pittsburgh could finish with a top-five defense and taking a step forward to become an above-average offense. In a crowded AFC North, 10-7 season and a playoff berth would be ideal.

Pittsburgh Steelers season prediction: Worst-case scenario

Despite all of their acquisitions this offseason, the Steelers aren’t guaranteed to be a better team in 2022 than they were last year. A lot of close games fell their way in order to earn that 9-7-1 record in 2021, and they may not get so fortunate this time around.

If the quarterback play is worse than expected, Pittsburgh could prove to have one of the worst signal-callers in the NFL. We know how important the quarterback is to the success of a team, so this could really hurt them. This team could also start to unravel if a star like Watt were to go down with a significant injury.

With all of the roster turnover and the chemistry this young team will have to try to build on the fly, I can see Pittsburgh finishing with a record as low as 6-11 if their one-score games go the other way this year.

Pittsburgh Steelers season prediction for 2022

  • 9-8 record
  • 3rd place in the AFC North
  • Playoff Prediction: Miss the playoffs

In 2021, It took an overtime field goal from Chris Boswell against the Ravens as well as a Chargers loss in Week 18 for the Steelers to sneak into the playoffs. Under the direction of Mike Tomlin, I fully expect the Steelers to surprise as underdogs to be a competent football team.

However, the AFC North looks like one of the best divisions in the NFL on paper, and the Bengals and Ravens are strong contenders in 2022. Because of this, I have Pittsburgh landing in a very similar position the Chargers were in last year when they narrowly missed the playoffs with a 9-8 record and finished third in their division.

We are going to go through some growing pains as the Steelers enter a new post-Ben Roethlisberger era, but with good coaching and a solid defense, I think they can do enough to be a borderline playoff team this year.

Read more from FanSided’s 2022 NFL Preview here. For more Pittsburgh Steelers coverage, check out Still Curtain