The Steelers role players must step up when called upon if the 2022 season is to be a success
So, what exactly is a role player, a.k.a. an unsung hero? For the Steelers, a role player or an unsung hero is either a backup, a starter who may not have the name or recognition of other starters, a special teams maven, or a player who serves a very specific role, e.g. a third-down only RB or WR.
Obviously, the aforementioned description of an unsung hero is my interpretation of that moniker, but I think it is important for us to understand that in today’s NFL, having quality backups or those players who, when called upon, can step in and play at a high level, is paramount to the success of any team.
Having grown up watching the Steelers dynasty of the 1970s, I can tell you unequivocally that we probably would not have won four Super Bowls in the ’70s had it not been for the performances of unsung heroes such as Randy Grossman, free-agent TE out of Temple University, my alma mater, who was a four-time Super Bowl Champ.
The Steelers may need to rely on role players to have a successful 2022 campaign
Grossman’s best performance was the 1978 season. He started ten games and caught thirty-seven passes for four-hundred and forty-eight yards en route to helping us win our third Lombardi Trophy. Make no mistake, Grossman was an integral component of our success that season.
Another unsung hero who comes to mind is John Banaszak, DE out Eastern Michigan, who started thirty-one out of thirty-two games over the 1978 and 1979 seasons. Banaszak was the epitome of a role player, who, when called upon, stepped up in a manner similar to Grossman.
There was really no drop-off in production with either Grossman or Banaszak. There were more players on those ’70s teams we could discuss, but the point is this: What player or players on the 2022 Steelers roster as it is currently constructed would become the next Grossman or Banaszak?
Let’s say that Pat Freiermuth gets injured, would Zach Gentry be able to step into the role of TE one? Sure, I think he could, but would he be able to replicate the production of Freiermuth? That’s the sixty-four thousand question.
The other sixty-four thousand questions is who on the defensive side of the ball would be able to step up if Cam Heyward, for example, got injured? I think it’s fair to say that Heyward is the unquestioned leader on defense. Without his presence, would someone like Montravius Adams be able to step into the role that Heyward played?
Again, the answer is the same as it was when we were talking about Gentry. Yes, I think Adams could step into that role, but would the production be similar? The difference between a good team and a great team is often the quality or lack thereof of the backups.
Personally, I think the 2021 iteration of the Steelers lacked quality depth at key positions. I hope that is not the case with the 2022 iteration of the Steelers because if it is the case, we could be for a long and unsuccessful season. Put another way, we could be in for a losing season. To me, that would be a travesty.