Despite a down season, Steelers fans have much to be thankful for

Cameron Heyward #97 talks with T.J. Watt #90 of the Pittsburgh Steelers during the game against the New Orleans Saints at Acrisure Stadium on November 13, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Cameron Heyward #97 talks with T.J. Watt #90 of the Pittsburgh Steelers during the game against the New Orleans Saints at Acrisure Stadium on November 13, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) /

Although the 2022 season is not going as well as Steelers fans would have liked, there is still much to be thankful for

Let’s just call the 2022 season what it is:  A down season.  We currently are on the wrong side of the winning ledger with some tough games ahead of us. No one knows how the 2022 season will ultimately ‘shake out’ but I think it’s fair to say that despite all that has transpired thus far, we still have a lot to be thankful for.

I know that sounds counterintuitive and perhaps a bit disingenuous, but having been a fan for forty-four-plus years, I know that we will bounce back as we have always done.  We will ‘right the ship’ at some point and we will, hopefully, return to a position of prominence.

Let’s see what we have to be thankful for on the offensive side of the ball.

The Steelers offense has some young talent around which to build

Despite not scoring a whole lot of points and not being proficient in the passing game, I think it’s fair to say that Kenny Pickett, our 2022 first-round pick, is improving with each start.  Honestly, I didn’t think Pickett would start any game this season.

I honestly thought that he would sit this season and compete for the starting job in 2023; however, Mike Tomlin thought otherwise.  There’s no going back now, but I think it was the right move at the time the move was made.

How Pickett plays for the remainder of the season is yet to be revealed but he does have some playmakers he can throw the ball to.  George Pickens and Pat Freiermuth are two emerging, young players. Of course, the offense cannot be one-dimensional and expect to have sustained success.

That’s where the running game comes into play.  In the Steelers victory against the Saints, the running game, led by Najee Harris, frankly pounded the Saints on the ground. Harris has been complimented by Jaylen Warren, an undrafted rookie, who has earned more and more playing time each week.

The offensive line has been improving as well.  Again, despite a rough start to the season and despite some lapses in executing assignments, I think the ‘O-line’ will continue to ‘gel’ and will continue to be ‘a group on the rise’, as Tomlin would say.

Let’s see what we have to be thankful for on the defensive side of the ball.

The Steelers defense has the makings of a great defense

If you’re in my age group when you think about the Steelers, you think about the ‘Steel Curtain’ and the plethora of Hall of Fame players who made that defense the dominant group it was.  The 2022 iteration of the ‘Steel Curtain’ has not lived up to its reputation for various reasons, but that does not mean that the building blocks are not in place.

With players such as Cam Heyward, T.J. Watt, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and an emerging player such as Alex Highsmith, I believe that with additional, quality pieces, the defensive puzzle, as it were, can be completed.  We need a good draft and perhaps some quality free agents to ‘get across the finish line’.

I don’t think it is a coincidence that the return of Watt signaled a return to putting consistent pressure on the opposing QB.  Frankly, without Watt in the lineup, the defense was just unable to apply consistent pressure.

I hope the game the defense had against the Saints is a harbinger of things to come and not merely a ‘flash in the pan’.  Who knows, if the defense continues to ascend and the offense continues to improve, we may just pull this thing out in the end.

Let’s see what else we have to be thankful for.

The Steelers are a great organization with great traditions and a great reputation

Honestly, I don’t like the way the 2022 season is unfolding. I am not OK with losing and not being competitive each and every week.  The responsibility to be competitive each and every week falls to Tomlin and his coaching staff.

I will say that I also don’t like the play calling on offense nor do I like the fact that we seemingly cannot stop the pass on defense.  That falls squarely on the shoulders of our offensive and defensive coordinators.

I won’t belabor the point here, but I do think Tomlin needs to move on from both coordinators at the end of the season.  Despite what I view as a mistake in promoting both Matt Canada and Teryl Austin, Tomlin has done an incredible job since taking over the reins in 2007.

Think about that for a minute.  The Steelers have had one head coach since 2007. Other teams have had the proverbial revolving door at the head coach position, but because we are a model of consistency that I believe other teams strive to emulate, the Steelers organization and us fans have enjoyed consistent success.

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Do I like where we sit right now?  No.  Do I think we can go on a bit of a winning streak to at least finish the 2022 season with a winning record?  Yes.  Do I think the Steelers need to move on from Tomlin regardless of how this season unfolds?  No.  What I do like is this:  We have a lot to be thankful for and that starts at the top.