‘The Steelers Will Be In The Playoffs Next Year:’ Analyst Kyle Brandt Buying Pittsburgh’s Stock

Kyle Brandt is all in on the Pittsburgh Steelers. In a long, nearly 10-minute breakdown of the team, the short answer is he considers them to be the NFL’s biggest sleeper. The team overlooked with its unsexy star power and forgettable 2022 season. But when 2023 finishes up, he expects the Steelers to be back in the playoffs.

Comparing them to a boring government savings bond, Brandt quipped Pittsburgh is safe and trusted. In his latest episode of Kyle Brandt’s Basement on ESPN, he made his case.

“Do you know they finished 9-8 with a rookie quarterback, just tossing him out there?” Brandt said. “Another big chunk of the season was with Mitch Trubisky at quarterback and they still finished above 500.”

Trubisky entered the season as the Steelers’ starter, starting the first four games before being pulled at halftime versus the New York Jets. Kenny Pickett took over from there, though Trubisky started one more game that Pickett missed due to a concussion as well as appearing in a handful of others.

Pittsburgh has been among the steadiest and most consistent teams over the last two decades. No losing seasons since 2004. Always battling for the division crown. Usually in the postseason. The 2022 season was certainly a challenging one post-Ben Roethlisberger with the youngest offense in football and a defense that lost T.J. Watt four quarters into the year. But the Steelers battled and rallied and finished the second half of the season a blistering 7-2 to wind up 9-8, narrowly missing out on the playoffs

As a rookie, QB Kenny Pickett took his lumps and had to wait his turn. In 2023, it’s his team, and Brandt expects a big jump in play.

“When you tuned out, what you missed was this Kenny Pickett, this rookie from Pitt, ended his season with a five-game winning streak. The games he started and finished it, five-straight games. What you missed is in the final two months of this season, a season in which a rookie quarterback is learning and making mistakes and peppering interceptions all over the field, this guy threw one interception in eight games and there’s no talk, there’s no chatter, there’s no allure.”

Pickett grew up throughout the year, taking care of the ball, making smart decisions, and leading back-to-back game-winning drives to beat the Las Vegas Raiders on Christmas Eve and on the road against the rival Baltimore Ravens the following week. The Steelers supported with him a steady and stronger run game but Pickett made encouraging strides.

There’s no question Pittsburgh will be in a tough AFC North and AFC at-large next season and probably seasons to come. Assuming Lamar Jackson stays in Baltimore, the rest of the North will be full of first-round quarterbacks in Deshaun Watson, Joe Burrow, and Jackson. Beyond that, the AFC has headline names like Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, probably Aaron Rodgers, and up-and-comers like Jacksonville’s Trevor Lawrence. Expectations for the Steelers will be high too, not wanting to miss the playoffs in consecutive years.

All told, Brandt thinks Pittsburgh will avoid that mark.

“The Steelers will be in the playoffs next year. Kenny Pickett will make a big jump,” he said. “The defense will be much improved. Watt may be their Comeback Player of the Year if he even qualifies, I don’t care. Steelers. Steelers. Steelers…the Steelers will be back.”

Brandt also highlighted the team’s draft capital with two picks in the top 32 selections, #17 and #32, acquiring the latter in the Chase Claypool deal that Pittsburgh’s come out on the better end of. Toss in the 49th pick, their original second rounder, and they have three picks in the Top 50 for the first time since 1989. A good place to be for GM Omar Khan in his first draft with the team.

You can check out Brandt’s full segment below.

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