4 Steelers primed for a breakout season in 2024

Pittsburgh has several talented young players entering a much better situation in 2024.
New England Patriots v Pittsburgh Steelers
New England Patriots v Pittsburgh Steelers / Cooper Neill/GettyImages

The Pittsburgh Steelers are loaded with young, promising talent as we enter the summer. Unfortunately, many of these players have been robbed of the opportunities they deserve. The Steelers didn't exactly have the best offensive coaching in 2023, and defensively, Teryl Austin did some questionable things when it came to divvying out playing time.

This year, things could be different. Several young Steelers are primed for breakout seasons early in their NFL careers, and the talent could jump out on the field this summer. Here are four players primed to break out in 2024.

Darnell Washington, TE

Steelers fans had high hopes for Darnell Washington. At roughly 6'7'' and 270 pounds with an incredible 83 3/4'' wingspan and 4.64 speed, Washington was one of the most intriguing players in the 2023 NFL Draft. Pittsburgh was quick to snatch up the mammoth tight end in the third round last year, but he was barely noticeable as a rookie.

Washington was seldom involved in the passing game last year, and he missed too many blocking assignments as a rookie. With his rookie season under his belt, the 22-year-old tight end could take the next step forward.

Arthur Smith has been a tight end-friendly play-caller, and Washington should be much more involved in the offense this season. This might not equate to big numbers in the receiving game, but Smith will figure out a way to use him. The raw talent is remarkable, and Darnell Washington won't be held down for long. Expect a breakout season in Year 2.

Broderick Jones, OT

We will never understand why the Steelers chose to appease Dan Moore Jr. last year instead of their 14th overall pick. When Chukwuma Okorafor headed to the bench, it was Broderick Jones who was forced to move to right tackle, not the veteran Moore.

This change of position was no doubt attributed to Jones' slow start as a rookie. The flashes were all there. Jones possesses a rare blend of size, mobility, and power. However, mental lapses and late reactions happened too often.

Now it looks like Broderick could be moving back to his natural position at left tackle. This was a very raw player in college, and we figured he wasn't going to look like a star out of the gate. The talent is all there and he's primed to make a significant leap in his second NFL season.

Keeanu Benton, DL

Keeanu Benton might have had the prettiest one-sack performance all season that I have ever seen. This is why it's so important not to be a box score checker.

While the raw numbers were not impressive on paper in 2023 (36 tackles, 1 sack, 1 TFL), Benton was milliseconds away from a handful of sacks when he earned 8 QB hits on 270 pass rush snaps. His ability to generate pressure resulted in an 80.0 pass-rush grade as a rookie, per Pro Football Focus. Benton was PFF's 20th-ranked interior defender by the end of his rookie season.

In Year 2, Benton is going to convert on these pressures and turn them into more sacks. He's also expected to play a bigger role on defense in his second season. Keeanu Benton has a chance to be the biggest breakout player on the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2024.

Calvin Austin, WR

When you consider that Calvin Austin III is a sub-5'8'' receiver who has done next to nothing in his first two seasons, it's hard to believe that he is primed for a breakout season this year, but the context is important.

Austin's entire rookie season was claimed before it started thanks to a foot injury. In Year 2 after recovering, his usage was at the mercy of OC Matt Canada -- one of the worst play-callers in the league.

Now in Year 3, Arthur Smith will have a plan for the explosive wide receiver. Austin may be small, but he plays as fast as his 4.32 speed would indicate. He could earn a role as a slot receiver, and he already showcased Pro Bowl upside as a return man in his first season on the field in 2023. Austin could surprise a lot of Steelers fans this year.