Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 Training Camp Preview
The Pittsburgh Steelers are in a new era after future Hall of Fame quarterback Ben Roethlisberger retired in 2021. He was the leader of the Steelers for 18 years and now the team will have to find a way to move forward. The Steelers went 9-7-1 last year finishing second in the AFC North and were eventually bounced in the first round of the playoffs. Pittsburgh has the talent to make a deep playoff push but they are weak at important positions. Their quarterback position is up in the air, the offensive line is a mess, and the secondary needs to step up. However, they have arguably the best player in football in linebacker TJ Watt, a First-Team AP All-Pro defensive tackle Cameron Heyward, and Pro Bowl safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. Also, Pittsburgh has a top 15 wide receiver in Diontae Johnson and star second-year running back Najee Harris. Finally, we will see what the great head coach Mike Tomlin can do with this 2022 Pittsburgh Steelers squad as they head into training camp.
Three Position Battles to Watch:
Quarterback: Mitchell Trubisky, Kenny Pickett
This is debatably the most intense quarterback position battle in the entire NFL. I might be in the minority, but I think Mitchell Trubisky has some juice left and can be a good starting quarterback. The former No. 2 overall pick has his fair share of issues, but he was also a Pro Bowler for the Chicago Bears. His competition is rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett who played at the University of Pittsburgh. Pickett had a fantastic college career as a dual-threat QB with good recognition and arm talent. He will be the Steelers quarterback of the future but that might not be this season. These two QBs will push each other this offseason and I see Trubisky winning the job.
Guard: James Daniels, Kevin Dotson, Kendrick Green, John Leglue
The Steelers’ offensive line is a work in progress to put it lightly. It feels as if every position is up for grabs but specifically the guard positions are wide open. James Daniels, a four-year starter for the Bears, seems to be the frontrunner at left guard and Kevin Dotson, a Steelers 4th round pick in 2020, is the lead for right guard. However, second-year guard John Leglue and second-year lineman Kendrick Green are competitively pushing for starting spots. This position battle will be settled in camp, but any position not named tackle is available. It will be interesting to see if the Steelers can find the right group to start maximizing the effectiveness of their offensive line.
Cornerback: Ahkello Witherspoon, Cameron Sutton
The Steelers cornerback room saw some changes over the offseason. There is a semi-battle for the cornerback two position after getting Levi Wallace in free agency to lock up the No. 1 spot. Cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, who is a graduate from my very own Christian Brothers high school in Sacramento, California, was selected in the third round of the 2017 NFL draft. He came to Pittsburgh last season in his fifth year and played well to end the season. This earned him a contract, but a starting spot is not secured. Long-time Steelers cornerback Cameron Sutton is heading into his sixth year after his first year as a starting corner. Sutton might be better suited as a slot corner, though he can still win the cornerback two position. Nevertheless, they both must step up and play well next year if the Steelers want to have a successful playoff run.
Ready To Breakout: Pat Freiermuth
The ‘Muth’ will be loose this year. Freiermuth was a Pittsburgh Steelers fan favorite in his rookie season last year, with fans chanting his name on every reception. He is already one of the most talented tight ends in the league and he has the opportunity to take another step in 2022. He flashed skill as a red zone threat as well as a capable blocker in his limited time on the field last year. His offensive numbers will continue to increase as his snap count goes up. Besides his talent, I think he can have a higher ceiling with Trubisky at QB because when in Chicago, Trubisky showed his reliance on tight ends such as Trey Burton. Freiermuth has the potential to be a top-five tight end in his second year in 2022.
Rookie To Watch: George Pickens
George Pickens is must-see TV especially now that he is in the tough AFC North. Pickens exhibits black Air Force One energy — in other words, he is a very aggressive and physical player. In college, he was not one to shy away from a fight or an altercation, which happens frequently in the rivalry-filled AFC North. However, Pickens is not only an interesting character, but he is a talented ball player as well. He is an athletic wide receiver with strong hands and fantastic ball skills. If he can stay healthy, then he can take advantage of playing with wide receivers Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool by learning from them. Pickens will have the ability to be an impact player for the Steelers’ offense.
Fantasy Sleeper: Chase Claypool
Chase Claypool is coming off a disappointing second season despite putting up nearly identical receptions and receiving yards stats. This is due to his touchdowns dropping from 9 to 2 in his second season. This is for multiple reasons, but I bet that his touchdown numbers go back up with a new quarterback that can throw down the field more than QB Ben Roethlisberger. Claypool is most successful when he is making jump ball catches and running deep routes. Now, he will have a quarterback that can deliver more downfield targets to him. The talent is there and with the new quarterback situation I think his stats can go up in general but importantly his touchdowns will increase. He is a fantasy sleeper as he is a skilled wide receiver two with a high ceiling on a good offense.