The start of the 2022 regular season for the Pittsburgh Steelers is so close you can feel it in the air. The season kicks off this Sunday afternoon against the Cincinnati Bengals at the not-so-friendly confines of Paycor Stadium. A trip to Cincinnati used to have a home-away-from-home feel to it, like a Steelers victory was almost predestined. Oh, how times have changed, with the Bengals winning the past couple of matchups.
A seismic shift in momentum could be felt late in the 2020 season, when the Burrow-less Bengals upset the Steelers, a team definitely trending in the wrong direction coming into the game after starting the season 11-0. Many will point to the fact that the overmatched Bengals finally stood up to the bully on the block, properly motivated by a former Steelers wideout dancing on their midfield logo prior to the start of the game.
As a wise man once said, don't poke the bear.
I personally believe the drafting of their franchise QB Joe Burrow was the integral point of their turnaround, but it's impossible to ignore the shift in fortune for the two franchises after that prime time game in 2020. The Bengals no longer fear the Steelers, whether the game is home or away. The Bengals defeated the Steelers handily in both contests last season, physically manhandling the Steelers, if we are being totally honest.
That reality has to be the biggest concern for the Steelers moving forward. The Steelers must match the physicality and intensity of the Bengals this season, or risk taking the backseat in the rivalry for the near future.
Let’s get to the stock report...
Stock Up: Mitchell Trubisky
Trubisky was brought in to be a bridge quarterback. To bridge the gap between the Steelers franchise QB of the past 18 seasons, to hopefully the Steelers next franchise QB of the future. Whether Trubisky can be that next franchise guy, or if that individual is even on the current roster, is anybody's guess. Only time will tell, but Trubisky has earned first crack at it.
Trubisky looks the part. He has looked confident and in control of the offense throughout the preseason. He hasn't seemed rattled by the Steelers inconsistent offensive line performance, even when he has been forced to utilize his excellent athleticism and mobility to escape intense pressure in order to try and make a play. He has protected the football, a focal point for Mike Tomlin in the quarterback competition.
Trubisky has shown a tendency for the splash play, more so than his competition for the starting position. If he can carry that tendency over into the regular season, plus extend the occasional drive with his legs, then the Steelers offense should be more explosive than last season. His calm demeanor and leadership should prove invaluable for an unusually young but talented Steelers roster.
Stock Down: Kendrick Green
The fact Green made the 2022 Steelers roster was far from a certainty after the final preseason game. In fact, it came as a shock to many, myself included. Even more shocking is the fact that the Steelers still have him listed as a guard on the depth chart. In my opinion, the Steelers are actually doing the young man a disservice by doing so.
Last year, Green was an inexperienced and undersized rookie center, completely unprepared and overwhelmed. Now he is a severely undersized and ineffective guard destined for failure and unemployment. He lacks the size and length needed to play guard in the NFL. I have pointed that out since last season, and his preseason performance has done nothing to change my opinion.
He absorbs every impact, instantly losing the battle for a leverage advantage due to his abnormally short arm length for the position. That's a reality that is impossible to ignore, and a problem that will never go away.
It shouldn't have shocked anyone when the Steelers signed John Leglue to the practice squad, and traded for veteran Jessie Davis. Leglue outplayed Green throughout the preseason, and Davis is more accomplished at guard than tackle in his NFL career.
Green's NFL career currently hangs in the balance at the moment. Draft pedigree played a role in this year's roster spot, but for how long. I wholeheartedly believe that Green plays center, or he gets on with his life's work.
Stock Up: Edge depth
Not long after the Steelers final preseason game, I read multiple comments about how concerned many in the BTSC community were at the perceived lack of quality depth at the edge position. Many proclaimed that the Steelers were doomed if T.J. Watt or Alex Highsmith would be lost due to injury for any substantial length of time.
The depth chart consisted of Genard Avery and Derrek Tuszka at the time. Avery was the versatile veteran, capable of playing inside or outside linebacker adequately. Tuszka was the high effort overachiever who came on strong towards the end of last season. Not bad depth pieces, but in no way starting material.
The Steelers apparently realized the need, because they quickly traded for proven edge producer Malik Reed, then signed former Steelers OLB Jamir Jones off the Jacksonville Jaguars practice squad. I believe both transactions were obvious attempts to correct mistakes from the recent past.
Trading for Reed should finally get the bad taste of the Melvin Ingram drama from last season out of the Steelers mouth. Ingram was a veteran free agent signed to provide the Steelers with quality depth at the edge position, but he still viewed himself as starter material. Unnecessary drama ensued, but obvious lesson learned.
Reed has been an integral part of a productive rotation for the Denver Broncos over the past few seasons. He is effective, reliable, and he knows his role. Renowned as an exceptional teammate. Perfect veteran addition at the position by the Steelers.
Jamir Jones addition righted a wrong in my opinion. The Steelers should never have tried to sneak Jones through waivers and onto the practice squad like they did in the early portion of last season. The Los Angeles Rams quickly claimed him, resulting in the Steelers acquiring Tuszka.
Although I admire Tuszka's motor and effort, Jones has superior strength and athleticism between the two. Jones sets a mean edge against the running game, and has potential as a pass rusher, especially if the Steelers starters are willing to take on a talented young pupil.
I feel much better about the Steelers edge depth moving forward after these two late additions.