While the Pittsburgh Steelers missed out on the playoffs due to a late field goal by the Miami Dolphins that gave them a 9-6 win over the New York Jets, the team showed remarkable improvement throughout the course of the season. After a 2-6 start, the Steelers went 7-2 after their bye week and finished the year 9-8 with a rookie in Kenny Pickett at quarterback and one of the youngest offenses in the NFL. After the team’s 28-14 win over the Cleveland Browns today, head coach Mike Tomlin said the Steelers were a team on the rise to end the season.
“I think our record indicates that, cause that’s all that matters, the style point component of play is less significant. You step into stadiums, you win games, you step out of stadiums,” Tomlin said in his postgame press conference via the team’s YouTube channel. “We were a team on the rise.”
If the Steelers did make the playoffs, they would’ve traveled to Buffalo to take on the Bills, a team that beat them 38-3 in Pickett’s first NFL start in Week 5. It would’ve been an interesting test for the Steelers, going to play a team that gave them their biggest loss of the season, and it would’ve been fun to see the Steelers’ improvement from Week 5 to what would’ve been Week 19. Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen, but I have no doubt that the Steelers wouldn’t have laid the egg they did during their first trip to Buffalo, and may have even stayed competitive throughout the game.
With the season over, attention turns to the 2023 season. If you’re a Steelers fan, it’s hard not to be optimistic after this team going forward. While they were a team on the rise to end this season, you have to think they’ll continue to be a team on the rise going forward. There will be changes, as the team adds and loses players in free agency and adds guys in the draft, but for a team this young to put up the performance they did in the second half of the season is special. Pickett looks like he could be a franchise quarterback while running back Najee Harris ran for over 1,000 yards this year and the Steelers found the perfect complement to him in Jaylen Warren. Rookie wide receiver George Pickens will look to build off his rookie year that saw him finish with 49 catches for 792 yards and three touchdowns, while veteran Diontae Johnson is back as well.
Pittsburgh’s offensive line got significantly better as the season went on, and while it wouldn’t be surprising to see a change, particularly on the left side of the line, the consistency the group showed through the final few weeks was impressive. There’s no arguing that the Steelers were a team on the rise, and with the right moves this offseason coupled with continued development, they could be a threat in the AFC come next season.