The Pittsburgh Steelers are off to a dismal 1-3 start this season, dropping three straight games after pulling out a win on opening weekend against the Cincinnati Bengals on the road. If it weren’t for a Minkah Fitzpatrick blocked extra point, Pittsburgh could be staring down the hole of 0-4 with the Bills, Buccaneers, Eagles, and Dolphins on the docket, who all profile as playoff teams as we sit here today.
Because of this, ESPN Football Power Index (FPI) is currently giving Pittsburgh a 2.4% chance to make the playoffs this season and are projecting them for a 5.4-11.6 record based on their projections for the rest of the season. Therefore, when ESPN came out with their newest 2023 NFL Draft Order projections after Week 4, the Pittsburgh Steelers found themselves in uncharted territory, being slated at #2 overall only behind the Houston Texans, who are slated to have the #1 pick.
The 0-3-1 Texans — who picked third in the 2022 draft — have a 33.2% chance to land the top selection, and they’re followed by the 1-3 Pittsburgh Steelers 14.5%), who just benched quarterback Mitch Trubisky in favor of rookie first-rounder Kenny Pickett.
Based on ESPN’s model, Pittsburgh has had an average draft position of 6.3 in their simulations and has a 14.2% chance to earn the #1 overall pick. Pittsburgh’s chances at a top five pick are currently set at 54.9%, with a top ten selection being almost a guarantee at 80.4% at this time given their start and upcoming schedule via FPI.
For a team that has never had a losing season under HC Mike Tomlin and that has remained competitive as a yearly threat to at least make the playoffs, these projects are a far cry from what Pittsburgh Steelers fans have seen in decades. While it should be noted that this team’s schedule lightens up down the stretch after their bye week, they currently have the NFL’s hardest remained strength of schedule from several media outlets, lacking an identity on offense and trying to make do on defense without T.J. Watt for the next few games with a daunting schedule ahead of them.
The move to Kenny Pickett did provide a notable spark to the offense last Sunday against the Jets, but the Steelers find themselves in a predicament as they face a rebuilding year, even if Tomlin doesn’t want to admit it. Tomlin, GM Omar Khan, and owner Art Rooney II won’t allow this team to tank and will try to remain competitive, likely playing themselves out of a top three selection this coming spring.
The question will be whether Pittsburgh made the right decision last offseason with the selection of Pickett when they are staring the likes of QBs Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud in the face with where they are at right now. You can throw in all-world EDGE Will Anderson Jr. in there as well, who looks to be the best prospect at his position since Von Miller back in 2011.
Pickett will have the opportunity to prove that he is Pittsburgh’s franchise QB of the future for the rest of 2022, but should Pittsburgh be unable to turn things around this season with Pickett at the helm, many will wonder what could have been if they would have opted to bypass QB in 2022 and take aim at the 2023 class, which has been touted as the more talented class at the position. Regardless, it looks like Pittsburgh will be picking higher this offseason than it has been accustomed to, presenting the opportunity to add a blue-chip prospect to its roster depending how it evaluates this draft class.