Steelers' Players Who Won't Live Up to Hype in 2022 Season
The Pittsburgh Steelers come into the 2022 NFL season with a ton of expectations driven by their new-look offense and first-round pick Kenny Pickett.
The unit does not have many concerns entering training camp because of its depth at wide receiver and tight end.
Defensively, the Steelers made some upgrades at linebacker and in the secondary, but those moves may not come with massive improvements in production. A loaded linebacker room could cause one of their young players to regress in his number of tackles, and one of the new cornerbacks has struggled in one key department throughout his career.
Pittsburgh's first-team offense appears solid, but if an injury happens at a certain position, its depth will be tested.
A drop-off in production or a failure to live up to expectations for Alex Highsmith may be caused by more than just his own actions.
The third-year linebacker enters the season with more talent around him on the second layer of defense after Myles Jack was added to a unit led by Devin Bush and T.J. Watt.
The expectations for Highsmith may for him to increase his sack total from six in 2021 because attention may more on the other three linebackers. But that trio could lower his tackle numbers, especially in the rushing attack with two potential 100-tackle players in Bush and Jack.
Highsmith can still turn in a productive third season, but it may not live up to expectations to no fault of his own.
Levi Wallace joined the Steelers after four seasons with the Buffalo Bills.
Wallace has been an effective cornerback in the Buffalo defense but not an interception machine.
Pittsburgh had one player record more than two interceptions last season, and Wallace's career numbers suggest he will not help those totals. Wallace made two in each of the last three seasons over his four-year career.
Wallace's completion percentage against him has never been lower than 50 percent, and three years ago, that number was at 65.8 percent.
Pittsburgh needs its corners to be strong in its AFC North battles against the likes of Ja'Marr Chase and Amari Cooper.
Wallace could be an effective cornerback in 2022, but his final totals may not live up to what Pittsburgh needs in its secondary.
All Backup Running Backs
The Steelers have a backup running back issue.
Najee Harris ran for 1,200 yards in his rookie season and he added 467 yards through the passing game.
Harris is expected to be one of the best all-around running backs in football in 2022, but after him, the Steelers do not have much to offer.
Benny Snell Jr. and Anthony McFarland Jr. have to provide some depth behind Harris so that the second-year player does not wear out so early in his career.
Snell and MacFarland combined for 101 rushing yards and 24 receiving yards last season. Both players were standouts in college with Kentucky and Maryland, respectively, but their games have not translated to the NFL yet.
Pittsburgh is one injury away from having a serious hole in its offensive production in the backfield.
The Steelers have to hope that situation never rears its head because Snell and MacFarland have not proved they have the capabilities to succeed with 10 carries, let alone 20, in an NFL game.