The Pittsburgh Steelers punted on the 2022 NFL season.
They’ll never admit that. Nor should they.
In fact, I don’t think the punt is intentional. The team might not even know it. But whether directly or indirectly, it happened.
It’s clear these Steelers pushed their chips into the future.
To some, that might sound insane. The Steelers always have a shot, even when it seems like they don’t, right? They don’t miss the playoffs. They don’t post a losing record.
That’s all true –– until it isn’t. This 2022 Steelers team will finish with a losing record and miss the playoffs. With the team currently sitting at 2-6 and last in the AFC North, that’s not a bold prediction or a slight. That’s just logical.
The players will put in the work, improve, and try their best week in and week out. To question that is ridiculous. Sure, the team stinks, but they’re still professionals. Pride and ego can go a long, long way. The Steelers aren’t giving up or quitting or anything of the sort.
They’re just hanging in there –– barely.
Because nothing about this 2022 Steelers team inspires confidence.
Mike Tomlin’s been criticized at length.
.@Realrclark25 thinks the Steelers gave up in their loss against the Bills 👀
“This team didn’t play like winners.” pic.twitter.com/MtONmmFWec
— Get Up (@GetUpESPN) October 10, 2022
Matt Canada’s been staring at a Two Men and a Truck logo for months.
Kenny Pickett leads the league in everything except, you know, good stats.
Najee Harris is suffering a brutal sophomore slump.
Fourth down coming up for Steelers pic.twitter.com/9KVDSZXSNM
— DIE-HARD 🦅 Fans (@Eaglesfans9) October 30, 2022
It’s ugly for these Steelers, and it’s not getting better.
Optimists will say the second half of the season is easier for the team. That’s fair.
After facing odds-on favorites in both the AFC and the NFC (the Bills and Eagles) in the first half of 2022, the Steelers finish against sub-.500 teams aplenty with the Saints (3-5), Colts (3-4-1), Panthers (2-6), and Raiders (2-5) among the challenges down the stretch.
None of that matters.
Since losing the Super Bowl to the Packers in 2010, the Steelers have been back to the playoffs in seven of 11 seasons.
Five of those appearances were one-and-done efforts.
Just making the playoffs isn’t enough in Pittsburgh. It’s not impressive anymore. Fans are spoiled by this, to be certain, but true progress in Pittsburgh looks like another legitimate Super Bowl run and nothing less.
There’s no scenario where that happens in 2022, and trying to win right now only pushes back a future run.
When the Steelers traded Chase Claypool to the Chicago Bears for a second-round pick in 2023, our Alan Saunders wrote all about that dirty, dirty word:
More than that trade, though, Tomlin already said the team won’t make significant changes to its staff.
Say no more.
If the Steelers offense is a garden hose, Canada is a clamp.
The team doesn’t score points with him calling the shots. It’s just a fact:
The trend continues.
In Matt Canada’s now 26 games as #Steelers OC, the offense has failed to score over 20 points in 21 of those games.
All five occurrences came last season. @937theFan
— Josh Rowntree (@JRown32) October 30, 2022
Those times they did score more than 20 points? Yeah, that was mostly Ben Roethlisberger being a future Hall of Famer late in the game and nothing more.
Without No. 7, no such magic exists.
Knowing all this, why not play for the future? If Pickett improves (and he should) that’s a great sign for the team. A healthy Harris can be devastating in both the rushing and the passing attack. T.J. Watt will transform the defense upon his return. George Pickens and Diontae Johnson might actually improve without Claypool.
There’s some stuff to get excited about –– but it all happens tomorrow.
So take an honest inventory of what’s happening here:
- The Steelers’ offense is tragic –– but no changes are coming.
- The Steelers’ defense is the highest-paid in the NFL –– but it’s pedestrian at best the moment it loses one player.
- The Steelers’ quarterback throws interceptions at an alarming rate –– but he won’t get benched.
- The Steelers won one of their two games almost entirely because of the efforts of one receiver –– and he just got traded.
Does any of that sound like a team that’s trying to win now? Take note of the situation, and it’s obvious: