Another year has come and gone, with another draft on the horizon. It’s the perfect time to take a step back and reflect on the year that was, especially with respect to the most recent draft class. The Pittsburgh Steelers made seven selections in the 2022 NFL Draft, one in each round except for the fifth (zero) and the seventh (two).
The top of the draft marked one of the most momentous decisions in decades, as they used their first-round pick on the quarterback they hope will be the long-term successor to the retired Ben Roethlisberger. And they used much of the rest of the draft to find him weapons, marking the second year in a row they used each of their top two picks on offense.
Only two defenders were drafted, including a defensive lineman in the third round, the first time they have taken a lineman on that side of the ball earlier than the fifth round since Javon Hargrave in 2016. They also added an inside linebacker in the seventh round, who is the only holdover at the position from last season.
Over the next week, we will be looking at each of these players one by one and examining how their rookie season went and what we can expect from the moving forward, both during the 2023 season and potentially for the long term. But we’ll discuss each briefly below.
Player: Kenny Pickett
Draft Status: First Round (20th overall)
Starts: 12 (13 games)
It seems, especially in hindsight, that quarterback Kenny Pickett was going to be the Steelers’ draft pick, provided that he was available, regardless of where they were drafting. I wouldn’t be shocked if they would have drafted him first overall had they held the top pick.
History will prove whether the Steelers would have been wise to do so, but for now, they have a young quarterback with a winning record and a lot of upside. Pickett went 7-5 in his 12 starts, though he exited one win and one loss due to concussions. He deserved at least partial credit for the win, but the loss was all Mitch Trubisky and his three interceptions.
Speaking of Trubisky, he started the first four games of the season over Pickett, even though he seemingly performed no better than did the rookie through most of the offseason, including the preseason. Head coach Mike Tomlin made the decision to pull the veteran at halftime of that fourth game, citing the search for a “spark”.
Pickett provided that spark, to a degree, though the offense didn’t exactly take off like a rocket. While the rookie quarterback grew more comfortable and showed more poise over the course of the season, one could argue that the bigger variable was the improvement in the running game and the offensive line in the second half of the year.
Nevertheless, if you go by the “eye test”, Pickett may very well pass. Based on what he showed in 2022, it’s reasonable to think that he could have a much better season next year as he gains in experience and the offense begins to build around him. And perhaps Matt Canada will trust his young offense more and handicap it less.