Kenny Pickett, Pat Freiermuth Finish As Steelers Highest-Graded Offensive Players According To PFF

With the 2022 season officially in the books for the Pittsburgh Steelers, it’s now time to evaluate the current roster as assembled and see how this team can improve on both sides of the football to make a playoff push in 2023.

When looking at the offensive side of the football, you can’t help but be encouraged by the amount of youth that the Steelers currently have that is under contract for the foreseeable future.

As Alex Kozora pointed out in an article sharing optimism about the Steelers’ prospects for 2023, Kenny Pickett, George Pickens, Najee Harris, Jaylen Warren, Pat Freiermuth, Diontae Johnson are all slated to return. This makes up the vast majority for the skill position players for Pittsburgh as all the players mentioned except for Johnson are still on rookie deals with Johnson being signed through the 2024 season.

This list of young skill position players showed promise at times in 2022, and that is reflected by Pro Football Focus’ final grades of the Steelers’ offensive players with Pickett and Freiermuth sharing the top spot with a 75.5 overall grade.

Rounding out the top five are RB Najee Harris with a 73.8 overall grade, WR Diontae Johnson with a 69.6 overall grade, and WR George Pickens with a 68.8 overall grade. This may come as a surprise giving how well the offensive line played down the stretch, but given their struggles to begin the season, the skill players claim the top spots according to PFF’s grading system.

Looking back, the 2022 Pittsburgh Steelers offense wasn’t anything special. They finished 26th in the NFL in total points scored, 24th in passing yards dead-last in passing TDs, 16th in rushing yards, and 11th in rushing TDs. The offense found their identity in running the rock down the stretch, relying on winning time of possession while playing good defense to close out close games. Given the resurgence of Najee Harris down the stretch and the way the OL gelled in the second half of the year, it only made sense to lean on the run as Pittsburgh went 7-2 after the bye.

However, the passing game looks primed to take a notable leap forward in 2023 as Pickett and the rest of his weapons displayed the ability to make crucial plays in the waiting moments down the stretch. He showed chemistry and trust with Pat Freiermuth over the middle of the field on possession downs and gave us a glimpse of what the Pickett-to-Pickens connection may look like for the next three years at a minimum.

No one is going to confuse this group of skill position players for the Young Money Crew which featured Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, and Emmanuel Sanders with TE Heath Miller in the mix as well. However, paired with a rookie quarterback heading into his second season with a full offseason to develop, there is a lot to be optimistic about regarding the Pittsburgh Steelers and the step forward their passing game can take next season and beyond.

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