Ways the Steelers can still win despite a bad record in 2022
The Steelers season is essentially over, but there are still some things the team needs to focus on to make 2023 have some positives.
For those of you expecting a typical Steelers season, you must be very disappointed. To be fair, the team has even underwhelmed my average expectations, but the odds of a team like this being overly competitive was never likely. Now, with the season on the verge of being over from a competitive standpoint, a lot of the focus has to be on the future of this team.
Even if the final record isn’t great, there are still ways for this team to have a somewhat successful campaign. A down season after a string of competitive ones happens, and there are positives that can still be taken away from this season. In particular, the Steelers can still have a successful season if these four things come true.
Myles Jack is the Steelers guy moving forward
A signing I wasn’t that high on, Myles Jack has been mostly as advertised. While he hasn’t been the impact player he was early on in his career, his steady presence on this defense has been welcomed. Last year, the linebackers were a major liability, and it cost this team as a result. Jack has been solid, and this defense has a consistent face at linebacker for the first time since Ryan Shazier.
With Devin Bush likely gone in the offseason, it will be beneficial for this team to have some consistency at linebacker. Keeping Jack around as your three-down linebacker would be a huge win. A free agent or even a draft pick could come in for Bush’s role. Jack has to keep up his solid play, but he is establishing himself this season.
Steelers core of receivers keeps it up
While the traditional receiver group has been a disappointment, there have been two notable bright spots. The first is the ever-dependable Pat Freiermuth, as the second-year tight end has become a great safety valve target. When asked, he can attack the seam and make bigger plays down the field as well.
The second is George Pickens, who has beaten back the slow start to the season and is looking like the elite prospect many hoped the Steelers had drafted. Even if there are some questions amongst the rest of the group, having a big-play threat at receiver and a great tight end will ensure this offense can move through the air going forward. Both need to keep it up, but they should cement themselves as cogs in this offense moving forward.
Alex Highsmith finishes his strong season
One of the lone bright spots on an otherwise underachieving defense, Alex Highsmith seems to have picked up where his second season left off. He has been a consistent presence off the edge and has been amongst the league leaders in sacks. He is having a great season as an individual, and he could give the team a tandem of pass rushers in the future.
Assuming Highsmith continues at his current pace, he will be a prime candidate for a contract extension next offseason. Locking him up ensures the team has a pair of quality pass rushers for the foreseeable future. It has been great to see him finally break out, and if he can continue his pace, he will be one of the lone bright spots on an otherwise disappointing team.
Kenny Pickett grows
The only thing the Steelers should be worried about right now is how Kenny Pickett looks moving forward. His stats and the team record will likely be ugly, but there is a lot riding on this rookie for the team. He is facing considerable adversity as the starter, and he has made some ugly plays as a rookie.
If by the end of the season we are talking about the same issues for Pickett, it will be a bad thing. That said, if his decision-making is better and he is less mistake prone, that will be a huge boost for this team heading into the offseason. Pickett doesn’t have to be perfect, but it will be a huge win if he can show some positive growth by year’s end.
The Steelers will almost certainly have a less-than-desirable record by the end of the year, but there are positives that can and should be taken away from this unit. Some players are off to a great start, while others have the opportunity to show growth by the season’s end. While looking at the silver lining is never ideal, these four scenarios would all be wins for an otherwise disappointing Steelers season.