It was a season of transition on offense for the Steelers, and the changes incorporated included a new offensive coordinator, a new offensive line coach, a new offensive line and a host of rookies all trying to come together in a hurry.
Not surprisingly, consistency proved to be an elusive commodity.
"We didn't achieve the kind of offense that we would like to have, but we had some good moments," Steelers president Art Rooney II assessed.
Following is a look back at five of the more memorable/impactful/potentially significant developments on offense in 2021:
No. 5: On-The-Job Training
The offensive snap counts of some of the rookies put into context how much the Steelers relied throughout the season upon players taking their initial NFL steps. Running back Najee Harris (980, 84 percent), offensive tackle Dan Moore Jr. (1,080, 99 percent), center Kendrick Green (977, 96 percent) and tight end Pat Freiermuth (683, 62 percent) weren't eased into anything. They delivered at varying levels of performance and production, but all delivered in a manner that suggested they'll be better for the experience.
Take a look at photographs of Steelers OT Dan Moore Jr. from the 2021 season
No. 4: Another Step Forward
For the second consecutive season wide receiver Diontae Johnson caught the ball more than he had the previous season, gained more yards and scored more touchdowns. Johnson's career-high totals posted in 2021 included 107 receptions for 1,161 yards and eight receiving TDs. Johnson's 107 catches were fifth on the Steelers' all-time list and his eight games of 75-plus receiving yards tied the Chiefs' Tyreek Hill for fifth in the NFL. There is much Johnson can build upon, again.
Take a look at photographs of Steelers WR Diontae Johnson from the 2021 season
No. 3: Justifying the Hype
Harris, the No. 1 pick from Alabama, performed at an historic level. His 1,667 yards from scrimmage were the most by a rookie running back in Steelers' history, and the ninth-most amassed in franchise history. His 74 receptions were the most by a Steelers rookie and the seventh-most by a rookie running back in NFL history. His 188-yard effort against the Browns on Jan. 3 was good for No. 8 on the Steelers' all-time single-game rushing list, and his 14 receptions on Sept. 26 against Cincinnati were the third-most in a game on the Steelers' all-time list. Harris delivered all season long.
No. 2: Fourth-Quarter Magic
The Steelers faced a fourth-quarter deficit but rallied to win in six of their nine victories (at Buffalo, at Cleveland, Chicago, Tennessee and both games against Baltimore). They also trailed the Lions after three quarters and ended up with a tie. The fourth quarter proved to be the Steelers' most productive quarter of the season (169 points) by a wide margin over what they managed collectively in first (37), second (77) or third (54) quarters.
They faced a one-point deficit against the Bears after allowing a touchdown and an extra point with 1:46 remaining but responded with a seven-play, 52-yard drive in 1:20 that resulted in a 40-yard field goal that won the game, 29-27.
No. 1: Ben's Last Hurrah
The fourth-quarter comeback in the regular-season finale on Jan. 9 at Baltimore proved to be especially satisfying. In what turned out to be his final regular-season game quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hit wide receiver Chase Claypool for a 6-yard touchdown with 2:54 left in regulation that, coupled with kicker Chris Boswell's extra point, gave the Steelers a 13-10 lead. The Ravens rallied to force overtime but in the extra session Roethlisberger directed a 15-play, 65-yard drive that included a conversion on fourth-and-8 (a 10-yard completion to wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud) and ended with a 36-yard field goal from Boswell. The 16-13 victory, along with the Jaguars' win over the Colts and the Raiders' victory over the Chargers, sent the Steelers to the playoffs.