At 3-7, the Steelers have a lot of problems. This wasn’t a new discovery after their latest debacle, a 37-30 loss at the hands of the Cincinnati Bengals, but it was magnified in this defeat. Watching this team play both offense and defense is painful for any Steeler fan or even any fan of the game of football. They’re largely inept, on both sides of the ball.
Who’s to blame? You can start with the now ex-general manager, Kevin Colbert. He left this team with far too many holes and quite frankly his last few drafts left something to be desired. You can absolutely blame Matt Canada, the world’s worst offensive coordinator. You can blame Mike Tomlin for not firing Canada and you can blame Teryl Austin on defense for not making adjustments with one of the more talented units in the league. But mostly, you can blame the bulk of the players; they just aren’t delivering when they need to.
With that said, I wanted to take a look at this 3-7 roster and admit that these last seven games of the season should largely be used as a dress rehearsal for 2023 and beyond. Therefore, the team should be broken into three buckets; Must Keep, Could Keep, Can Move On.
In the “Must Keep” category, you have: T.J. Watt – The world’s best linebacker and one of the most important players in the NFL. Watt is a game-changer and can’t be taken for granted. Minkah Fitzpatrick – He’s a ball hawk and a play-making safety that makes a big difference. He’s one that has to stay. George Pickens – He is only a rookie but you can already tell he’s a big play threat and a budding number one receiver. He can be a difference maker for years to come. Pat Friermuth – He’s very good tight end who could be Travis Kelce if the right plays were called. He needs to get the ball far more than he has so far. Chris Boswell – He’s one of the best kickers in the NFL and you don’t let those guys get away.
That’s the list. That’s the must keep. Only four players. That is far too little. The “Could Keep” is a list of players that you’d like to keep but if they leave, you won’t lose sleep over it. Cam Heyward – Largely, he’s a must keep. He’s a playmaker and a leader. The only reason he’s on this second list is due to his age. I don’t think he’ll be relevant when the Steelers are good again so if he were to move on or the Steelers to move on from him, I could live with it. Alex Highsmith – He makes plays and leads the team with nine sacks but he’s largely effective when Watt is on the field. Without T.J., I see Highsmith as rather ordinary. He can stay or go and the Steelers will be OK as long as T.J. is on the opposite side of this spot.
Cam Sutton – I like him as a cornerback on this team but I’m not convinced he’s a number one corner. I’m fine with him being the number two, however. Terrell Edmunds – He’s turning into a pretty good safety but still gives up some big plays. He is a guy that can be developed more but if he were to leave, he can be replaced. Diontae Johnson- He drops too many balls and tends to run south after the catch before turning north, which drives me nuts but he’s a good, speedy receiver who can be a big play threat if the right play is called. Najee Harris – He has shown some good things but he hasn’t broken out yet in his second year. I think he can be a feature back but it better happen soon. Kenny Pickett – I’m pretty sure he’s not going to be a franchise quarterback and I was very close to leaving him off this list because I didn’t think the Steelers should have drafted him in the first round. But he’s only a rookie and since he was a first round pick, I’ll place him here. However, should the Steelers have a top five pick in next year’s draft, they might want to consider drafting a quarterback again and trading Pickett.
And that, folks, is your list. If they didn’t make the first two, they fall to the “Move On” list. Everyone else is replaceable.
HOW THE STEELERS/COLTS GAME WILL PLAY OUT…
This game on Monday Night, Nov. 28, looks to be a MNF clunker. The Steelers are 3-7 and the Colts are 4-6-1. Neither team looks to be in playoff contention, though you could make the case the Colts could jump back into the conversation with a win against Pittsburgh.
The Steelers don’t have a shot in this one. Had they beaten the Bengals, I may have said otherwise, but after seeing the Colts lead the Eagles nearly the entire game and the Steelers have a dismal second half, I’m not convinced the Steelers will put up much of a fight.
If Matt Canada doesn’t allow Kenny Pickett to learn by doing, as in throwing the ball downfield, then I don’t even know what the rest of this season will be about. I don’t see him doing that. I don’t see the offensive line protecting Pickett or giving Najee Harris room to run and T.J. Watt can’t win the game on his own.
The Steelers will not have an answer for Jonathan Stewart and Matt Ryan will distribute the ball with ease. Steelers lose big.
MIKE PELAIA’S POWER PREDICTION – Steelers lose, 31-13