The 2021 NFL season may barely be in the books, but Dave Richard is already getting a jump on his 2022 preparation by highlighting at least one key statistic to know for each NFL team that had a major bearing on their 2021 performance and could mean a great deal for their 2022 outlook. In this space, Dave dives into the Pittsburgh Steelers.
More Early Prep (AFC): BAL | BUF | CIN | CLE | DEN | TEN | HOU | IND | JAC | KC | LAC | LV | MIA | NE | NYJ | PIT
More Early Prep (NFC): ARI | ATL | CAR | CHI | DAL | DET | GB | LAR | MIN | SEA | NYG | WAS | PHI | NO | TB | SF
Pittsburgh Steelers stats to know
Najee Harris finished top-5 in PPR points per game at running back, Diontae Johnson landed in the PPR top-10 among receivers on a per-game basis and Pat Freiermuth was sixth among tight ends in most PPR points scored from Week 6 through the end of the season.
Fantasy managers are worried about how these three will do in 2022 if they're catching passes from Mitchell Trubisky. But chances are things won't be worse than how things were with thirty-nine-year-old Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback.
Here's how Big Ben did in some important metrics from 2021:
- 64.5% completion rate
- 3.6% TD rate
- 86.8 QB rating
- 6.18 yards per attempt
- 6.7 Air Yards per attempt
- 15.8 Fantasy points per game
* ranked 21st or worse in each category
And here's how Trubisky fared in those same stats with Chicago from 2018 through 2020 (39 games):
- 65.1% completion rate
- 4.5% TD rate
- 89.8 QB rating
- 6.76 yards per attempt
- 8.3 Air Yards per attempt
- 18.5 Fantasy points per game
Not that these are amazing numbers, but they are indeed better than Roethlisberger's 2021 campaign. And aside from the Fantasy points, Trubisky's career stats are all also very close to the league average of all quarterbacks from 2021. That's the good news.
The worry is whether or not the Steelers will treat Trubisky the same way they treated Roethlisberger. For over a decade, Roethlisberger was a successful force in the Pittsburgh offense. As a result, they became increasingly pass-heavy. In Roethlisberger's last three full seasons, including last year when his arm went rotten, they threw the ball at least 63% of the time and ranked no lower than third in pass rate.
Trubisky told SiriusXM NFL Radio he's improved his on-field processing and has been making reads faster since he left Chicago. There was evidence of that going back to his preseason action, but it's hard to take preseason results seriously, especially when he was on a different team.
If Mike Tomlin and offensive coordinator Matt Canada learn to trust Trubisky as much as they trusted Roethlisberger, then it's pretty easy to see at least solid seasons from Johnson and Freiermuth. Claypool's role would need to change in order for him to have a breakout campaign; concern about Trubisky's deep-ball accuracy impacts the receiver's chances at consistent big games. Harris should be in for a big year no matter who the quarterback is.
It's an offensive unit that figures to look quite different next fall, protecting a different quarterback next fall. Hopefully, it still means big results for the same Fantasy stalwarts.