Steelers made it a point of emphasis to get much faster on offense in 2022
By Tommy Jaggi
The Steelers lacked big-play ability last year. Here’s why they spent the offseason making it a point of emphasis to improve their speed on offense.
After Pittsburgh’s 2021 season ended in disappointment, there were no doubt some things that Mike Tomlin was hoping to do differently this time around. Last year, the Steelers former top-five defense took a sizable step back (particularly against the run).
In Ben Roethlisberger’s final season, Pittsburgh really lacked big-play ability of any kind. While we would like to put this all on Ben, this really is a two-way street between the quarterback and his receivers.
In 2021, Chase Claypool wasn’t nearly as effective down the field as he seemed to have regressed in year two. Meanwhile, no other wide receiver on the team had the speed to stretch the field and win deep on a consistent basis at all.
Recently, the Steelers lost JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, and Ray-Ray McCloud to free agency. As affordable as these players were on the open market, Pittsburgh didn’t seem to express any desire to bring them back. Why? Probably because none of them offered big-play potential.
This has been the Achilles heel of Pittsburgh’s offense for years. That could now change. In the early-to-mid rounds of the 2022 NFL Draft, the Steelers made it a point to add players who will make their offense much faster moving forward.
Steelers get much faster on offense following draft
The importance of adding speed to this offense cannot be understated. Pittsburgh had too many guys who couldn’t separate down the field and really capped their offense.
Now not only do they have a QB who should be more willing to throw the football down the field than Roethlisberger was over the past few years, but they also gave Kenny Pickett some flashy weapons to work with.
The exchange looks excellent on paper, as George Pickens, Calvin Austin, and even free agent waiver claim, Miles Boykin, make for a much faster group than the players who left this offseason.
Combine this with the quick twitch and agility of Diontae Johnson and the long speed and overall athleticism of Chase Claypool, and you have a pretty stellar young group of receivers.
I know this might not seem like a big change, but I’m willing to bet that the difference is noticeable from the gate. Gone are the days when defenses can simply play Cover 1 against the Steelers and not be worried about speed down the field or Roethlisberger beating them with his arm.
Second-round pick, George Pickens, isn’t exactly a track star, but his 4.47 speed at over 6’3” and his natural ability when the ball is in the air are going to help this offense tremendously. Likewise, Pittsburgh has true speed at the wide receiver position for the first time in forever with Calvin Austin. While he’s tiny (5’7 3’4”, 170 pounds), Austin is a natural receiver who can stretch the field from the slot or take it the distance on a slant.
I know most fans have some catching up to do when it comes to film on these draft choices, but I am pleasantly optimistic about the firepower this offense suddenly possesses. Pittsburgh’s offense should be much more explosive in 2022, which raises their overall ceiling.