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What is the Steelers biggest X-Factor going into the 2022 season?

There are a lot of different parts of the 2022 Pittsburgh Steelers which will ultimately determine their success this coming season.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers have finished up their 2022 rookie minicamp and are heading into the next phase of OTAs. With 90 players on their offseason roster, the lineup is set for the most part, outside of the occasional player swap, unless they decide to make another major change.

When it comes to the Steelers personnel, there are still a lot of questions to be answered. Exactly who will be playing for the Steelers, or how well a particular unit may work together, will be a huge factor in the team's success, or lack thereof.

So what will be the Steelers biggest X-Factor as to how their 2020 season turns out?

First of all, I realize that it is May. There are a lot of things that are going to take shape before the Steelers take the field in Week 1. Therefore, this is a question that will likely be re-addressed throughout the remainder of the offseason, training camp, and the preseason as the Steelers get ready to play meaningful football in September. But now that the roster is filled out, it’s a good time to start this process and see how things may change over the coming months.

For now, these are the five nominations as to what is the biggest X-Factor in determining the Steeler success this coming season. Because this is not a question of who, players will not be specific options.


The quarterback position

With the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger, this is an obvious choice. Uncertain at this time as to exactly who’s going to be taking snaps in the Steelers first regular season game on September 11 in Cincinnati, it’s ultimately going to be the play of that person which will help the Steelers win games. Also, whether or not that person remains to be the Steelers quarterback throughout the season is another factor. Whether it be in Kenny Pickett, Mitch Trubisky, Mason Rudolph, Chris Oladokun, or some surprising roster move, the play of the Steelers signal caller will be a huge factor in the offense’s success, and therefore the overall success of the Steelers.

The offensive line

An issue for the Steelers the last few seasons, the ability of the offensive line to protect their quarterback as well as open holes for the running game is another huge factor in the team’s offensive success. If the Steelers quarterback simply does not have time to throw, or is running for his life after receiving a snap, it makes it much more difficult for the offense to get into rhythm. Additionally, if Najee Harris or any other Steelers running back is constantly being contacted in the backfield, expecting huge strides in the running game is a difficult task. Additionally, if these factors greatly inhibit the offense, it could be the defense is called on to be on the field too often.

The Steelers did make some offseason moves in an attempt to bolster their offensive line. In bringing in James Daniel and Mason Cole, the Steelers are not sure in which way both players will contribute when it all shakes out. But by having two more players with NFL experience, if the Steelers younger players do not make the needed improvements for 2022 they should not be forced onto the field. Between young players such as Dan Moore Jr. and Kendrick Green, Kevin Dotson coming off an injury that cost him the second half of last season, Chuks Okorafor being retained despite questions of him holding down the position, and exactly how free agents are going to fit into the mix makes for a difficult situation which could end up very good or turn in a very bad direction.

Running back depth

The Steelers seem to be set with Pro Bowl running back Najee Harris as he enters his second season in the NFL. Last year Harris was able to play at all 17 regular season games as well as the postseason, but missing time in the middle of Week 18 showed how much his absence affected the offense. With the running back position being one in which players are constantly missing time due to injury, are the Steelers ready to have an adequate rushing attack in the event in Najee Harris misses time? This is one of those questions that you hope never has to be answered, but when it does it becomes a huge issue.

Stopping the run

Rather than pin the responsibility on the defensive front or the linebackers, it’s so much easier to look at the defense as a whole and discuss their ability to stop the run. The 2021 season saw the Steelers giving up more rushing yards than they ever had in franchise history. Whether it be wreaking havoc at the line of scrimmage or the ability for linebackers to free themselves up to step up and make plays, the Steelers were continually gashed in the run game last season. Yes, there are hopes that Stephon Tuitt and Tyson Alualu are returning to the defensive line. But until they take the field, the Steelers may not be exactly sure what type of play they can expect. While the modern NFL does allow for teams to struggle at stopping the run as long as they are extremely effective at shutting down the passing game and getting to the quarterback, the Steelers could be a truly dominant defense if they could adequately stop both phases of the game.

The cornerbacks

As much as I didn’t want to call out a specific position in the last section, this section is all about the cornerbacks. With the narrative among Steelers fans being that there is no true number one cornerback on this team, will the Steelers having multiple options in the secondary be enough to get the job done? Can Levi Wallace come in and be the answer at one of the positions? Can Ahkello Witherspoon be utilized enough in coverage where his struggles in run defense are insignificant? What are the Steelers hoping to get out of Cameron Sutton? There are a lot of questions about this position group for 2020, and the answer to those questions could be the difference between the Steelers having an elite pass defense or having it be an area of concern.


There very likely could be more factors that one could consider when it comes to the Steelers 2022 season, but these are the five areas I’ve chosen for now. In case you’re wondering, the best answer for what is the biggest X-Factor would be “all of the above” as the Steelers coming together in all these areas will ultimately determine their success. But which one is the most significant?

I don’t always do this in articles where I ask questions, but this time I’m going to give my answer:

The offensive line

Yes, I’m a bit biased because I both played and coached the position, but I feel the other two offensive X-Factors will be greatly influenced by the Steelers ability for the offensive line to do their part. If the Steelers can’t win in the trenches, they are going to be in trouble. If their offensive line can come together in a huge way, it makes the other factors less significant.

So what do you believe is the biggest X-Factor for the Steelers for 2022 as we sit here in May? In what order would you place their five items? Make sure you vote in the poll and leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Poll

What is the Steelers biggest X-Factor going into the 2022 season?

This poll is closed

  • 17%
    The quarterback position
    (123 votes)
  • 59%
    The offensive line
    (428 votes)
  • 1%
    Running back depth
    (11 votes)
  • 18%
    Stopping the run
    (134 votes)
  • 3%
    The cornerbacks
    (26 votes)
722 votes total Vote Now