Pittsburgh Steelers If they want to establish themselves as legitimate playoff contenders in 2023 and beyond, they need some talented young core to take the next step.
The Steelers are coming off an up-and-down 9-8 season, missing the playoffs by the slimmest of margins. Despite early struggles and a 3-7 start, the team managed to post a solid 6-1 record over its last seven games. To say that last year was a tale of two seasons would be an understatement.
The fans will be expected to be out of the playoffs until the 2023 season. One big reason for this is the expected development of second-year quarterback Kenny Pickett and wide receiver George Pickens. The Steelers used their top two picks last offseason in hopes of making a connection through 2022 and beyond.
According to NFL.com analyst Bucky Brooks, both Pickett and Pickens will take a step back in their second year in the league. He selected each of them to the 2023 all-purpose team and had plenty of positive things to say about Pickens.
“The second-round pick exploded onto the scene in 2022, hauling in 51 catches for 801 yards and four touchdowns,” Brooks wrote. In addition, the 6-foot-3, 200-pounder displayed incredible hand-eye coordination with a series of jaw-dropping, acrobatic catches that captivated the football world. With plenty of playing time and an expanded role on the horizon, Pickett could enter the conversation as a top-10 receiver by the end of 2023. The Pickett-to-Pickens relationship will have terrible towels to wave for years to come.
Pickens thrived in the Steelers offense last season and was one of the most impressive rookie quarterbacks in a loaded draft class last season. He ranks in the top five among all rookies in receptions, yards and touchdowns. Pickens made his mark in the Steelers record book as he recorded the fifth-most receptions as a rookie receiver in team history.
These impressive Picks stats all came with a very limited route tree and limited yards after the catch last season. As the Georgia product gains more trust from this coaching staff, look for the Steelers to use him creatively in 2023. Even at the end of last season, the Steelers had an impressive 289 yards and seemed to be looking for Pickens more. Two touchdowns in the last five weeks.
Pickett’s inclusion on the list isn’t much of a surprise, as he was also named the top running back by Pro Football Focus. After finishing the year strong, he is expected to expect more weapons in 2023 and growth from his top targets, including Pickens.
With Pickens turning two, there will be no questions about who will throw the ball. Pickett will take the lead from the jump this season, the first of many full seasons the Pickett-Pickens relationship will hopefully see in Pittsburgh.