Regardless of what any individual tries to tell you, nobody knows the future. When it comes to the 2022 Pittsburgh Steelers, the only certainty is uncertainty.
The Steelers have been the most stable and consistent franchise during the modern era of professional football. They have also been one of the most predictable organizations in the NFL. The Steelers are renowned for consistently having an intimidating defense and bludgeoning rushing attack. Although the degree of success can vary greatly from season to season, the hard earned reputation remains.
Even when the product on the field looks absolutely nothing like the reputation. Don't believe me, just listen to the broadcast team during any nationally televised Steelers game over the past few seasons. Even though recent Steelers squads have hardly resembled the reputation, it gets mentioned during virtually every broadcast. That actually started to change every so slightly during the past couple of years, as announcers started mentioning how the Steelers no longer represent their own reputable standards.
The punishing running game left the building years ago. Don't get me wrong, the Steelers had a very effective running game during the peak Le’Veon Bell days. That being said, while the rushing attack was very productive, it was far from punishing or pounding. The Steelers weren't imposing their will on the opposition, pounding them into submission, wearing them down by the fourth quarter, and controlling the time of possession.
The Steelers’ running game has evolved, right along with the rest of the NFL. You either evolve, or get left behind. The Steelers utilized Bell's rushing and receiving versatility to it's fullest. Therefore, they built the finesse offensive line that best fit Bell's specific skill set and abilities. That line was also a perfect fit for the elite talents of Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown, hence the success of the Killer B's.
As far as the intimidating defense goes, that mentality is no longer prevalent or possible, thanks to multiple rule changes. Intimidating, hard hitting defenders like Mean Joe Greene, Jack Lambert, Donnie Shell, Greg Lloyd, Ryan Clark, and James Harrison struck fear in the hearts and minds of skill position players. Those aforementioned players would always be great, but they would have to make some serious adjustments to their games to be as effective in the modern NFL. Intimidation, as they relied on, is no longer an option.
The 2022 Pittsburgh Steelers face a season of even more changes and uncertainty. For the first time in nearly two decades, the Steelers enter training camp without the benefit of a franchise quarterback. Instead, they have a three headed quarterback competition. There are some who believe that if you think you have three starter capable players at the position, you really have none, because that means none of the three have separated themselves from the competition. For the Steelers sake, hopefully one of the candidates grabs the reigns early in camp and runs with it, winning the position outright, rather than by default.
Adding to the uncertainty is the complete installation of Matt Canada's playbook to the Steelers new look offense. That was an impossible endeavor last season, as the Steelers simply lacked the personnel to execute the game plan. Kevin Colbert, in his last hooray as the Steelers General Manager, shrewdly acquired what appears at first glance to be many of the pieces that were no doubt missing last season. They also got noticeably younger in the process.
The Steelers improved their quarterback mobility, the speed and big play ability of the wide receivers, and the talent and stability of the interior offensive line. Now, Canada and the Steelers should be able to utilize the complete playbook to keep defenses off balance and guessing.
The severe limitations of the past few seasons created crippling predictability, resulting in an anemic offense that was quite frankly hard to watch. The 2022 offense should be anything but predictable, as even the Steelers can't be too sure what to expect.
The same could be said about the Steelers defense. Linebacker whisperer and pass rush maestro Keith Butler has left the building, no doubt wondering aimlessly throughout the early stages of retirement, still feverishly trying to devise a plan of attack to stifle the unstoppable Tyler Eifert. Sorry, I just couldn't resist the temptation.
In all seriousness, the impact of Butler's absence will no doubt affect the Steelers pass rush. I believe that is a huge reason that Mike Tomlin and company felt compelled to bring in Brian Flores, a defensive minded coach who definitely knows a thing or two about devising and executing an effective pass rush.
Similar to the Steelers new look offense, none of us really know what to expect with the Steelers new look defense. While there will still be familiar faces in some places, numerous newcomers have been added to the equation: names like Jack, Wallace, Kazee will be expected to quickly become acquainted with their new teammates and schemes so they can operate at peak efficiency.
We all know the plan, even if none of us have a clue what the final results will look like. Truth is, we seldom do. That's what makes it all so exciting.