3 Big Changes Steelers Must Make in 2022 Offseason If They Miss Playoffs

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistDecember 29, 2021

3 Big Changes Steelers Must Make in 2022 Offseason If They Miss Playoffs

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    The Pittsburgh Steelers should be at the forefront of the offseason quarterback carousel.

    The Ben Roethlisberger era needs to come to an end no matter how the Steelers finish off the 2021 regular season. 

    Pittsburgh could still qualify for the postseason with wins over the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens combined with some help, but even that potential achievement should not take away from the difficult task that awaits the franchise in the offseason. 

    Roethlisberger could go the way that Drew Brees, Philip Rivers and Eli Manning chose recently and retire in the offseason after a lengthy career. 

    Even if he wants to play another season, the Steelers should find a capable replacement for him in the offseason because the long-time signal-caller displayed plenty of signs in 2021 that he is nearing the end of his career.

    The Steelers can focus on improving other positions after they figure out who will start for them at quarterback next season. 

End the Ben Roethlisberger Era

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    Ed Zurga/Associated Press

    The Steelers need to end the Ben Roethlisberger era at the end of the 2021 season.

    The long-time Pittsburgh starter displayed several areas of regression throughout the campaign, with his lack of arm strength being the primary concern. 

    Roethlisberger needs 430 passing yards in the next two weeks just to match the total he produced in 16 games last season. 

    He is on track for his lowest passing touchdown total since 2015, and his mobility in the pocket has decreased with every game. 

    Pittsburgh has two options to replace its starting quarterback. It could give Dwayne Haskins a shot to elevate himself up the depth chart, or it could look elsewhere. 

    The 2022 NFL draft class is not as loaded at the position as previous years, but Pittsburgh's Kenny Pickett should be familiar to the franchise's brass. 

    Jameis Winston and Teddy Bridgewater are the best possible free agents set to hit the market, and Jimmy Garoppolo could be available if the San Francisco 49ers commit to Trey Lance, but all of those players come with flaws. 

    Pittsburgh is probably best off starting anew with a young quarterback it can mold in its system to have success for years to come instead of choosing a stopgap option to wait for a draft with a deeper quarterback class. 

Sort out the Wide Receiver Depth Chart

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    Ed Zurga/Associated Press

    The Steelers need to figure out who the top targets will be for their new quarterback. 

    JuJu Smith-Schuster is set to become a free agent, while Chase Claypool and Diontae Johnson headline a thin depth chart. 

    Claypool has made some mistakes, including his blunder celebrating a first down during a two-minute drill against the Minnesota Vikings

    Johnson has improved in 2021 after his drop-filled 2020, and he is the closest thing to a No. 1 wide receiver set to be on the Pittsburgh roster in 2022. 

    The Steelers do not have much depth outside of Johnson and Claypool at wide receiver, which is concerning for a team that may need to bring along a young signal-caller. 

    Pittsburgh could turn to the second and third days of the NFL draft to bolster its depth at the position, or it could dabble in the free-agent waters if Smith-Schuster does not return. 

    It does not matter how the Steelers improve at wide receiver as long as they get better to match the depth the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals will have for years to come. 

Revamp Defensive Interior

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    Reed Hoffmann/Associated Press

    Pittsburgh made a large commitment to T.J. Watt last offseason, but now it needs to find supporting pieces around him for the long term. 

    Tyson Alualu's contract expires soon, and Stephon Tuitt has dealt with injuries for most of the season. 

    The Steelers have some young defensive linemen already in place with Isaiah Buggs and Isaiahh Loudermilk, but they should look to get even younger and better at the position in the offseason. 

    Pittsburgh needs its defensive line to be a strength in a division where Cincinnati and Cleveland have strong rushing attacks and Baltimore has one of the most mobile quarterbacks in the NFL. 

    The Steelers can't solely rely on Watt to pressure the quarterback during an 18-game regular season. 

    If quarterback is the focus of the first-round pick, the Steelers should attack the defensive interior in free agency. 

    Chandler Jones, Randy Gregory and Harold Landry are among the top potential free agents at the edge-rushing position, and Pittsburgh could sign one of the big names on the market if Roethlisberger's massive contract comes off the books for good. 

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