The Pittsburgh Steelers underachieved in 2021 by the organizational standards. Yes, they made the AFC Playoffs, but that isn’t the goal. Now, with Ben Roethlisberger officially retired, the Steelers are going to look for some players on their roster to make a big jump in 2022 to help the team stay competitive.
Below are five players the Steelers need to take a big step forward this offseason to help ease the blow of losses to players like Roethlisberger and several others likely to free agency.
Let’s get to the list...
Most Steelers fans favorite punching bag, Green can not be cast off and deemed a failed experiment. Instead, the hope is Green improves to be able to fill one of the many openings along the offensive line. Sure, it might be at guard, but if he can be the answer at center it would be the best possible scenario for the black and gold. Sure, not many are predicting this to happen, but giving up on Green after just one year as a professional seems to be too much of a knee jerk reaction.
Like Green, fans were fed up with Bush and his inability to provide the spark he had given the defense in 2020 before tearing his ACL. The question now is if Bush can overcome both the physical and mental aspect of his rehabilitation and show the same burst which had the Steelers move up 10 spots in the 2019 NFL Draft to select Bush. If he can, it’s a huge void filled, but if he can’t, the void will loom large.
It may seem crazy to have Harris on this list, but let’s not pretend the rookie came into the NFL as a finished product. Harris is as polished as they come entering the league, but he has plenty of room for improvement. Harris can improve greatly with a better offensive line, but his ability to help in pass protection, and becoming a more complete runner will make him even better in 2022. Quite the scary proposition if the Steelers are able to solidify their line on top of Harris’ improvement.
Dan Moore Jr.
I think there are some Steelers fans who expected Dan Moore Jr., a 4th round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, to come into the league and be Joe Thomas. They were upset, but I saw a player who stood tall when called upon. Moore played serious snaps as a rookie, and he showed improvement as the year progressed. Was he perfect? Far from it, but if he can build on the foundation of last season the Steelers could have found a very good talent in the middle rounds of the draft. Could Moore be moved from left tackle to right? He could, but only if necessary. Moore is trending in the right direction for a 4th round tackle.
If there was a season which could be seen as a slap in the face/wake up call for a player, it would be the 2021 campaign for Chase Claypool. Whether it was the comments about music at practice, or him signaling first down instead of getting the ball to the official at the end of the Thursday Night Football loss. Claypool had his share of struggles with defenses focused on him and not him catching anyone by surprise, like in 2020. If Claypool can continue to improve in all aspects, we’ve seen what he is capable of doing and helping the offense succeed.
Highsmith is coming off a six sack season, but there is no doubt the defense could use him getting to double-digit sacks in his third season. With T.J. Watt coming off his 22.5 sack season, it will be up to Highsmith to to help take some attention off the Defensive Player of the Year.
Dotson has been a contributor for the last two seasons, but it would be nice to see the offensive guard have a drama-free offseason and comes into camp ready to put his stamp along the offensive line. Dotson can be a stud, but improvement is needed.
Johnson has improved every year he has been with the Steelers, and that improvement will be necessary with the future of JuJu Smith-Schuster unknown. Yes, there are still some drops, but Johnson will get the opportunity to be the team’s WR1 next year. How he handles that will be something to watch.
Like it or not, Rudolph is the favorite to be the Steelers’ starting quarterback next season. With that said, it is important for Rudolph to show at least some improvement in his game during the offseason before he becomes the entrenched starter for 2022.
I address this topic, and much more, on the latest episode of “Let’s Ride”. Take a listen to it in the player below: