‘We Have A Lot Of Good Pieces Around’ Kenny Pickett, Art Rooney II Believes, Doesn’t Rule Out Adding Weapons

Entering the 2022 season, the Pittsburgh Steelers had one of the youngest offensive starting lineups in the NFL overall, with no starter over the age of 27 years old when the season kicked off Sept. 11 on the road against Cincinnati.

Though they were one of the youngest offenses in the NFL, they weren’t short of experience overall. Despite that, the offense struggled early on before coming alive late in the season under rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett and much-maligned offensive coordinator Matt Canada, leading to a 7-2 run down the stretch to finish 9-8 on the season.

In that strong second-half run, Pickett showed signs of being a true franchise caliber quarterback moving forward, thanks to his four game-winning/comeback drives in the fourth quarter, while Najee Harris looked like the guy the Steelers drafted out of Alabama, and rookie sensation George Pickens showed the ability to be a true No. 1-type weapon in the NFL.

For Steelers owner and President Art Rooney II, the showing by the offense in the second half of the season has him believing the franchise has good pieces around Pickett moving forward, putting him in an ideal situation to succeed in the NFL, and made sure to not rule out the potential to add more pieces around Pickett in free agency or the 2023 NFL Draft.

“I think we have a lot of good young players on offense, so, we may have a lot of the pieces around him [Pickett] that we need,” Rooney said to a select group of reporters Thursday during his year-end State of the Steelers address, according to audio via 93.7 The Fan. “Now, you can always use another piece and we’ll be looking for the other pieces, but I think we have a pretty good young group there. And we’ll have an opportunity in this draft, got some high draft picks we can utilize. In general, I like what we’re bringing back next year on offense.

The are plenty of reasons to like what the Steelers are bringing back on offense. Though the unit struggled overall in the red zone and didn’t really come alive in games until late in the second half of the season, the pieces seem to be in place overall, at least on the field.

Pickett relishes playing in big moments. He’s unbothered by the stakes, remaining the same quarterback throughout games, often serving as the riding tide that lifts all boats down the stretch. That was evident in the second half of the season as he led multiple comebacks and game-winning drives.

Harris an undrafted free agent Jaylen Warren paired up to be a formidable rushing attack behind an offensive line that took serious steps forward down the stretch, looking like a rather solid unit overall moving forward, though upgrades are doable there in the offseason. At receiver, Pickens became that contested-catch monster that many believed he could be, dominating on the back-shoulder and 50/50 balls from Pickett in the second half of the season.

Though Diontae Johnson had his struggles throughout the 2022 season, he remains a high-level receiver, one that gets open at an incredibly high rate.

Second-year tight end Pat Freiermuth took a step forward, too, becoming that downfield passing game threat the Steelers envisioned when they selected him the second round in 2021.

With three picks inside the top 50 of the upcoming 2023 NFL Draft, the Steelers could continue to invest around Pickett, whether that’s another receiver, another tight end or upgrades along the offensive line at left tackle or left guard.  But like Rooney said, there’s a lot to like with what is returning on offense in the black and gold.

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