It’s becoming increasingly clear which Pittsburgh Steelers players have made the biggest impact so far. Here are my updated player tier rankings.
We are still early in the 2022 season, but there’s already been a lot of players shifting since my initial offseason Steelers player tier rankings. With each game that passes, it’s becoming increasingly clear which players are performing the best and making the biggest impact as well as which players are getting lost in the shuffle.
When healthy T.J. Watt typically belongs in a tier of his own, but a pectoral injury has left him sidelined since Week 1. Some teammates have stepped up in his absence, while others have proven to simply be very average players so far.
I comprised these tier groups based on my personal evaluation which has included extensive research and hours of film study. Most players on the roster (and those who have performed poorly) did not crack any of these five tiers. Here are my top-five Steelers player tier rankings entering Week 6 of the 2022 season:
Steelers tier 1: Elite
T.J. Watt, Minkah Fitzpatrick
T.J. Watt didn’t even play a full game yet this season, but there’s no question that he’s a tier-1 player for the Steelers when healthy. He has the ability to play like the best non-quarterbacks in the league, so even with a very small sample size this year, there’s no doubt this is where he belongs. Likewise, Minkah Fitzpatrick has been a difference-maker despite pedestrian play all around him. Even without a pass rush the past four games, Minkah is still one of the best safeties in the NFL.
Steelers tier 2: Pro Bowl level
At the moment, I do have All-Pro Cameron Heyward just outside of tier 1 at this point. With Watt absent, it was Heyward who received the brunt of the double-teams. While I still think he’s clearly the best player on Pittsburgh’s defensive line, he just hasn’t been able to overcome these mismatches to make a lot happen. Still, Heyward belongs in the second tier by himself above all but Watt and Fitzpatrick.
Steelers tier 3: Very good, emerging
Pat Freiermuth, George Pickens, Cameron Sutton
Prior to his concussion in Week 5, I really think Pat Freiermuth was playing like a top-five tight end in the NFL. He was catching contested balls over the middle of the field and showing up big in crucial moments. George Pickens has been perhaps even more impressive. Despite rarely being used over the middle of the field, he has caught nearly everything thrown at him over the past two games. I also have Cameron Sutton in this tier, as he has played well despite being forced to cover for too long without a consistent pass rush.
Steelers tier 4: Average starter
Terrell Edmunds, Diontae Johnson, Alex Highsmith, Chukwuma Okorafor, James Daniels, Chris Wormley, Jaylen Warren, Mason Cole
Tier 4 is where things start to jumble up a bit. I really like what Terrell Edmunds has been able to do this year. He did have one bad game in coverage against the Browns, but the rest has been excellent. I don’t have him a tier higher, however, because he needs to do a better job at creating takeaways. Diontae Johnson took a step back from my previous tier rankings, as he continues to be plagued with inconsistency catching the football.
In this tier, I also have three offensive linemen who have all played better than expected so far. This pass protection has helped keep Steelers quarterbacks pretty clean this year, but none have been excellent as run-blockers. Alex Highsmith and Chris Wormley also make tier 4 as solid, but unspectacular defenders.
Steelers tier 5: Below average
Myles Jack, Najee Harris, Larry Ogunjobi, Kevin Dotson, DeMarvin Leal, Ahkello Witherspoon
There might be some push-back here, but remember that I am grading these players strictly on what I have seen so far from them in 2022. Like Diontae Johnson, Najee Harris also slides down a tier because of his lack of explosive plays and inability to make a difference in the running game so far. I also think that Myles Jack has been slightly below average when compared to other starting linebackers around the NFL. Still the best off-ball LB on the team, but that’s not saying much.
Larry Ogunjobi and Kevin Dotson have both been up and down on their respective sides of the football. Meanwhile, DeMarvin Leal flashes a lot of promise but has been poor as a run defender. Ahkello Witherspoon started off with a good game against the Bengals but had two poor showings before suffering a hamstring injury.
You may disagree with where I have some of these players, but keep in mind that I have certainly put in the work evaluating each one of them this year. Hopefully, we can see some of these players climb in the tier rankings as the 2022 season marches on.