Life is like a roller coaster – it has its ups and downs. That’s what life was like for the Steelers, and us fans, during the 2022-2023 season. It was a grueling season and not one the Steelers expect to be the standard (Coach Tomlin voice, “The Standard”). However, it did come with its positives.
What positives you may ask? The boys in black and yellow ended on the upslope of the roller coaster at the finish. They are looking to feed off that late-season momentum that nearly rallied them into a playoff spot.
Given the difficulty of the first half of the season, the playoffs seemed impossible, as did Tomlin keeping his winning season streak alive. Somehow, they managed to climb to a 9-8 record, after starting 2-6 heading into the bye week. One considerable reason for the late-season magic and turnaround is Kenny Pickett.
Expect significant improvement from Steelers QB in Year 2
So, what can we expect from Pickett during the 2023-2024 season? Improvement. Scratch that – significant improvement.
Now, do I expect Kenny to have the same second season as Ben in which he became the youngest Quarterback to ever win a Super Bowl? Absolutely not. And by no means do I expect Pickett to rise to the top with the elites of the AFC, but I do expect him to be in the tier below the likes of Mahomes, Allen, Burrow, etc.
Did Pickett have some disappointing outcomes last season? Of course, he did. There were a multitude of things that were solely his fault. Some people will blame his mistakes on the offensive line, him being a rookie quarterback, or having an incompetent offensive coordinator, but Kenny took full responsibility for those mistakes (i.e., the Dolphins game). He never pointed the finger or made excuses – and that’s exactly what you want to see out of your franchise guy (or what you hope to be your franchise guy). A true leader.
I truly believe we will see a substantial second-year leap out of Kenny Pickett. Kenny looks to be in great shape at the start of OTA's and I can tell he worked tirelessly this off-season to prepare for year two. Whether that be back home in Jersey, or down in sunny Florida, Pickett was putting in the work to be the best possible version of himself for this team.
Teresa Varley of Steelers.com wrote about that very thing this offseason. Pickett is so obsessed with getting better physically and mentally, he stated he never saw daylight. In the facility before sunrise; out of the facility after sunset. This is the type of hard work and dedication that you want to see out of your franchise quarterback.
I expect the chemistry to build even stronger with George Pickens, and call me crazy, but I’m thinking Diontae Johnson catches a touchdown this season. Sheesh, I hope. I would make the bet that Pickett’s passing touchdowns (7) from a year ago will increase this year, especially given the addition of Allen Robinson.
However, I don’t expect the Steelers to rely too heavily on his arm, given what we’ve seen in free agency and the draft (a la Broderick Jones and Darnell Washington). The Steelers seem to have made it a point to beef up the offensive line in an aggressive way. I expect the return of traditional smash-mouth football in Pittsburgh this season and beyond. I expect the Steelers to return to their winning ways – and I expect Kenny Pickett to be a massive reason as to why that happens.
Steelers fans should be excited about what the future with Kenny Pickett can look like. We must hope the long days and nights that Pickett is putting together pays off on the field. I expect that to be the case and hope for smoother sailing during the upcoming season. None of us are ready for another roller coaster ride.