2022 Steelers Season Recall: The offseason begins

Steel City Underground presents our 2022 Steelers Recall: a look back at Pittsburgh Steelers games and storylines from last season.

The 2022 Pittsburgh Steelers offseason seems like such a long way away now. But back in January and February of last year, there were several storylines that were red-hot as the team exited the playoffs in the Wild Card round.

Here are some of the sizzling storylines which highlighted the start to the Steelers 2022 offseason.

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Replacing Big Ben

Ben Roethlisberger acknowledged his retirement was on the horizon as the 2021 season wound down. He would have a farewell for the ages in his final home game against the Cleveland Browns, that would quickly lead to the big offseason question: who will the Steelers get to replace their franchise quarterback?

At the time Mason Rudolph was retained for one more season and Dwayne Haskins had an exclusive rights tender placed on him, making the two 2021 backups the primary options to duel it out as the heir to Roethlisberger.

However, speculation would run rampant about possible free agent signings, trades, and draft selections who could fill the role as well. Some of the names floated around last offseason included Marcus Mariota, Aaron Rodgers, Deshaun Watson, and Malik Willis – aside from the two who would play under center last season, Mitchell Trubisky and Kenny Pickett.

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Upgrade the Offensive Line

This was the second-biggest storyline heading into the 2022 season. In order for any new quarterback to succeed, the Steelers would have to do something about their patchwork attempt to fix their offensive line in 2021.

Kendrick Green, who was benched for an “injury” in the final games of the year, was not the rookie answer the team anticipated. Dan Moore Jr. would be returning as the left tackle, and perhaps Kevin Dotson at left guard too, a position which saw five different starters.

Trai Turner would not be retained at right guard, while Chukwuma Okorafor was scheduled to become a free agent and developmental tackle Zach Banner missed all but a few plays in the season opener of 2020 as a starter, but struggled to see the field in 2021.

Could the Steelers pass on a quarterback or other positions of need in the draft, to opt for O-line? Or would they fill some holes in free agency?

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Who are the receivers?

At one time the Steelers were a wide receiver factory, producing some great names on the field such as Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, and Emmanuel Sanders.

Even when Wallace and Sanders moved on, the team still found ways to fill their roles with players such as Martavis Bryant and JuJu Smith-Schuster.

JuJu was looking for a big payout in 2021, but returned to the Steelers on a team-friendly contract. It was noted that he would probably not be back for 2022, as would James Washington, leaving Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool as the only receivers left standing from a once vaunted lineup.

To add to the list of needs, kick returner Ray-Ray McCloud was also scheduled to become a free agent too.

Pittsburgh would have some work to do to shore up their receiver room.

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The Secondary

The Steelers defensive backs group was also being gutted. Veteran Joe Haden didn’t appear to be coming back, Terrell Edmunds was entering free agency, and Pittsburgh already moved on from starting corners Mike Hilton and Steven Nelson the year before.

This left Cameron Sutton and Minkah Fitzpatrick as the only two mainstays with substantial starting experience on the roster.

Ahkello Witherspoon, who came on late in the 2021 season, was also set to enter free agency after his one-year deal expired, leaving concerns with depth as well. Current defensive backs coach, Teryl Austin, was also being promoted to the defensive coordinator spot following the retirement of Keith Butler, leaving yet another big question with the Steelers defense and their DBs.

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Stephon Tuitt’s Future

After sitting out all of the 2021 season due to personal issues – and potential injuries stemming from those – Tuitt’s future was a major storyline that now seems long forgotten.

He was one of the team’s top five paid players, finishing 2020 with his first double-digit sack season and appearing to be the next great Steelers defensive lineman: when paired with his counterpart Cameron Heyward and edge rushers such as T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree, would help the franchise lead the league in sacks several seasons in a row.

Would Tuitt return and become the player he was blossoming into? Or might he journey into retirement? That was the question on everyone’s minds as this too would leave a large role to fill on the roster.


Stay tuned as we continue to explore last year’s storylines with unique lens of looking back and analyzing what was, and came to be, in our weekly Steelers Recall series.

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