Poor draft picks, poor coaching moves and poor decisions period have left the Pittsburgh Steelers in an unusual mess just eight games into the 2022 season. If there was a bottom – at least through eight games anyway – then the Steelers hit it today. Pittsburgh was outgunned, outmanned and outcoached in a 35-13 loss to the now 7-0 Philadelphia Eagles. The loss leaves the Steelers at 2-6 and while not mathematically eliminated from postseason play, the way they are playing, it may as well. Only the Houston Texans at 1-5-1 are worse in the AFC.
This season was actually several in the making. Significantly poor drafts in 2015 and 2016 and an inability to keep talent from 2017 left this roster with less and less talent. Of those three drafts, only T.J. Watt and Cam Sutton remain. Guys like JuJu Smith-Schuster, Javon Hargrave and Bud Dupree signed elsewhere. That’s the price you pay when you have a future Hall of Fame QB getting paid huge amounts of money. As we have seen through this season though, Ben Roethlisberger actually covered up a lot of warts in recent seasons.
The Steelers missed badly on guys like Artie Burns, Sean Davis, Justin Layne and Sutton Smith. The truth is, these things happen, the draft is an imperfect science but the evidence is clear that too many misses has added up to a lack of talent.
Pittsburgh has also made questionable calls in terms of coaching hires too. Teryl Austin didn’t exactly have an impeccable history with Detroit and Cincinnati as their defensive coordinator. Yet Mike Tomlin brought him in as the eventual replacement to Keith Butler. Losing Watt has not helped but Austin hasn’t adjusted well if at all.
Then there is of course the decision to hire Matt Canada as the offensive coordinator. I don’t need to go into specifics because you know how bad it’s been. There is a clear disconnect between him and the players and you hear it every week. Their confidence is waning which means motivation levels as well as enthusiasm levels are dropping rapidly.
Perhaps nowhere have the Steelers erred more in recent years than along the offensive line. Three coaches in three years doesn’t help but the talent is just not there. Another completely wasted pick on Kendrick Green forced the team to go out and get a guy in Mason Cole who has been “okay” at best. Dan Moore has not taken the next step we expected him to and Chuks Okorafor was re-signed on a team friendly deal. His play has been the most consistent but I’m not sure what that’s saying exactly. Their inability to create a running game has put more pressure on rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett and seems to have stripped Najee Harris of any confidence.
We won’t know for some time whether the decision to draft Pickett was a good one or not. It may end up being a terrific selection or a massive reach but I don’t see much in between. There have been signs of greatness and also signs of major concern with the former Pitt star. More time is needed.
As for Mike Tomlin, he has what is the safest job in America. What we don’t know however is what Art Rooney II and Omar Khan are thinking. From what we hear, Tomlin has tremendous control of the personnel side while Khan handles the finances. At some point however the rubber has to meet the road. No one cares that he has “never had a losing season.” Fans care about now and the “now” isn’t going very well.