The Steelers season is likely over, and they need to make sure these players see more playing time moving forward.
With the trade deadline now passed, it seems as though the Steelers are content with taking their lumps this season and working towards the rebuild in the offseason. Given this roster’s talent levels and struggles, that is the right choice as this roster likely wouldn’t be competitive no matter who was added. This attitude was furthered, as the team traded away starting slot receiver Chase Claypool at the deadline.
With the shift in focus likely going from just winning games to seeing what pieces you do have on the roster; some players need to be given more time on the bench moving forward. If the team doesn’t envision you being around long-term, your snaps should go to someone that could. Likewise, a handful of players need more snaps to see what we have in them. In particular, these five Steelers need to see more playing time moving forward.
TE/HB Connor Heyward
I wasn’t really sure what the role of Connor Heyward would be with this team in 2022. The tight end with a running backs body was always going to be a special teams player, but his role on the offense was very much in question. While his opportunities haven’t been overflowing, Heyward has made the most of his time on the field.
While his overall stats are inflated by a 45-yard catch against the Buccaneers, he has looked athletic in space and has displayed solid hands when receiving passes. No, he doesn’t need a majority of the snaps on offense right now but bumping his usage up a few plays makes sense. He has some burst as a player and could be a welcome receiver in the wake of the Claypool trade.
WR Steven Sims
This one is more than likely to come as a default, as Steven Sims seems poised to become the primary slot receiver for the Steelers following the departure of Claypool. That said, fellow receiver Myles Boykin will also be making the case for more snaps. Of the two, I think Sims needs to see the majority of snaps.
Boykin is essentially a big, down-the-field threat, something the team already has a better version of in George Pickens. Sims, meanwhile, is shifty and a threat with the ball in his hands. This passing game will likely continue to focus on the short game, so Sims could be an aid by turning some short passes into longer runs afterward. He needs to see the biggest boost in playing time out of the bye week.
LB Mark Robinson
This one is far more the case of “seeing what you have” as opposed to him having earned playing time. Mark Robinson was a training camp surprise for the Steelers. While a recent convert from running back to linebacker, Robinson was expected to have some growing pains. While he was far from perfect, his aggressive play was a welcomed addition to this defense.
He is still a huge question mark as of now but granting him some additional snaps moving forward could help the team gauge what they have. Robert Spillane offers very little on this defense right now, so giving some of his plays to Robinson is logical. He could very well crash and burn but giving him a shot is still important.
RB Jaylen Warren
It has been yet another bad season for the Steelers running backs, as once again they are a weakness for this offense. Najee Harris has been nothing short of horrible, and while I don’t believe Warren will instantly make this rushing attack better, he has proven to be a better fit in this offense as of now.
Warren is an aggressive runner, picking a lane and charging through it. That benefits how this offense is working right now, and he needs a bigger shot to show that he can handle more of a workload. No, the Steelers shouldn’t start Warren and bench Harris outright, but Warren has earned a bigger opportunity to show what he can do.
CB James Pierre
James Pierre had a huge opportunity in front of him last year when he was starting early in the season. The results were mixed, and eventually, he was benched. Injuries forced him onto the field this season, and he has looked like a much more consistent player for the defense. He has certainly earned the right to some more opportunities in the next few weeks.
The cornerback room has been a mess this season. Levi Wallace has struggled with injuries while Ahkello Witherspoon has been hot and cold (and mostly cold recently). While William Jackson will likely command some starting nods, Pierre still needs to have the opportunity to continue proving himself this season.
With the Steelers season likely continuing in mediocrity, the team needs to shift gears. There are quite a few players that are question marks that need to be given an opportunity to show what they can do. In particular, these five players need to see more snaps for the remainder of this season.