10 Bold Predictions for the 2023 Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, Cleveland Browns v Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, Cleveland Browns v Pittsburgh Steelers / Joe Sargent/GettyImages
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Seven Steelers Make Pro Bowl

If most of the predictions mentioned above come true, the Pittsburgh Steelers should be represented well at the Pro Bowl. Pittsburgh had 10 Pro Bowlers in 2017, their most since earning 12 in 1976; they had ten in 1978 and 1979. But they’ve had decreasing representation since 2017, down to only three in 2022 (Watt, Heyward, Fitzpatrick).

Nevertheless, there’s a good chance they reverse that streak and more than double 2022’s figure in 2023. The three from 2023 should make repeat appearances, but the rest of the list is as follows: Najee Harris, Diontae Johnson, Pat Freiermuth, and Alex Highsmith. 

As previously mentioned, Harris should have a bounce-back year with a healthy foot and running behind a better offensive line. Diontae Johnson also needs a bounce-back year and will be looking to score his first touchdown since Ben Roethlisberger’s final home game. But he should be more comfortable with Kenny Pickett this season and thus be able to assemble a Pro Bowl season. Pat Freiermuth should be able to make a similar leap, returning to his 2021 form, as he should now be featured in a more pass-centric role with Zach Gentry back and Darnell Washington added to the fold. 

Finally, back on the defensive side, Alex Highsmith was a Pro Bowl snub last year after finishing sixth in the NFL in sacks (14.5). He should be an addition this upcoming year, as T.J. Watt should help open up more favorable looks for him now that he’s back to 100%. If Highsmith, Watt, and Heyward all finish with double-digit sacks and the Steelers lead the league in sacks, it’s hard to imagine any of them will be snubbed from the Pro Bowl. 

Steelers Win AFC North

Alright, now let’s get to the ones that really matter. Currently, the Steelers' over-under for their win total sits around 8.5, and they have the worst odds of winning the AFC North. Yes, it’s a very difficult division. The Bengals are still the class of the division as long as Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase are still on rookie contracts.

The Ravens finally resolved the Lamar Jackson contract issue, brought in a real offensive coordinator, and surrounded Jackson with a bevy of offensive weapons. Finally, if Deshaun Watson can return to his 2019 form and the Browns' defense responds well to Jim Schwartz taking over, they could also be in contention for the title.

But let’s return our focus to the Steelers. Firstly, assuming there are no catastrophic injuries to major players, Pittsburgh is a better team than last year almost all the way across the board; the secondary has some question marks, but every other position group is improved. Kenny Pickett has a full offseason as QB1 under his belt, and the entire offensive infrastructure around him is better.

On defense, it’s hard to imagine the defense plays any worse than they did when T.J. Watt was missing. Additionally, Pittsburgh has a very manageable schedule, thanks to their third-place finish and matching up against the AFC South and NFC West divisions. 

If the Steelers can split their series with the Bengals and Ravens and sweep the Browns, winning the AFC North seems very likely. They face rebuilding teams in the Raiders, Texans, Rams, Cardinals, and Colts and teams in transition like the Titans, Packers, and Patriots. The latter half of the season is tough (five of the final eight and three of the final four games on the road), but the vast majority of games on the schedule are winnable. There’s no reason to doubt Mike Tomlin and the Steelers in a wide-open AFC race.