With the 2022 new league year, the questions will be plenty for quite a while, even as the Pittsburgh Steelers spend cash and cap space and use draft picks in an effort to find answers. We don’t know who the quarterback is going to be yet—even if we have a good idea. How will the offensive line be formulated? How will the secondary develop amid changes, including to the coaching staff? What does Teryl Austin bring to the table—and Brian Flores? What will Matt Canada’s offense look like absent Ben Roethlisberger?
These sorts of uncertainties are what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
Topic Statement: The Steelers will not get significant production in terms of snaps or statistics from their rookie draft class overall.
Explanation: With seven players drafted, the success or failure of the class as rookies hinges largely upon the fates of their top two picks, quarterback Kenny Pickett and wide receiver George Pickens. If Pickett starts, he will necessarily be a significant contributor. Pickens could be in line to be the number three receiver, as well. But no other rookie is clearly primed for major contributions as a rookie, limiting the overall year-one value of the class as a whole.
Let’s not downplay Mitch Trubisky. This is a solid roster that is better than last year, so there’s no reason that they can’t win some games. And if they’re winning with Trubisky under center, then they’re going to stick with him being under center. They’re not going to rush Pickett, especially before the offensive line is in sync.
As for Pickens, he only ran without a brace for the first time at the Combine. He hasn’t done much in terms of actual football in a year. They have veterans, including someone like Anthony Miller whose skill set is actually to play in the slot, who will be the first out of the gate. Pickens will contribute, but he’s not going to have a Chase Claypool-like rookie year.
And Leal will probably spend most of the year as a healthy scratch. The seventh-round picks may not even make the 53-man roster. Heyward probably will, but he may play the second-most total snaps of the entire group behind Pickens. Perhaps nobody will log even 400-500 total snaps this year.
Whether it’s at the beginning of the season or sometime during the middle of the year, Pickett is going to start. And that is going to qualify as major production. He should finish the season with probably 500-600 snaps in that event. The statistics, well, that’s largely up to him, but guys like Diontae Johnson will help him put up numbers.
Pickens is probably the most talented wide receiver on the entire roster, and he’s healthy now. Good luck keeping him off the field. And Calvin Austin III will likely have a supporting role as well. Connor Heyward is due to become a fixture on special teams, at least, and offensive snaps are not out of the question depending on how creative Matt Canada gets. The opportunity is there for DeMarvin Leal to seize playing time, as well.