The Pittsburgh Steelers don’t get bored. It seems like every season, regardless of their records or championship chances, the Steelers never seem to have a season without intrigue. Last season’s big story was the latest chapter in Ben Roethlisberger’s 18-year career. This year’s saga centers around Roethlisberger’s successor, Kenny Pickett, whoafter his NFL debut last Sunday.
The move from Mitch Trubisky to Pickett came at a pivotal moment in the Steelers’ season. At 1-3, the Steelers are only a game behind every other team in the north of the AFC. It’s a good news. The not-so-great news is Pittsburgh’s schedule with upcoming games in Buffalo, Tampa Bay, Miami and Philadelphia before heading into Week 9.
Pittsburgh’s pre-bye scheduling led many to believe that if coach Mike Tomlin decides to replace the quarterback, it will be after the bye, when the Steelers’ schedule looks set to ease up. Instead, Tomlin decided not to wait, and the Steelers would take on their future opponents with the help of their rookie quarterback, for better or worse.
How will it work? here look
Influence on crime
Judging from last Sunday’s game, Kenny Pickett’s experience will not be boring at all. In one half of the job, Pickett became the first quarterback in NFL history to hit multiple touchdowns on his debut. He also made history by attempting the most passes in a game, but none of them hit the ground. Of course, this report includes Pickett’s three interceptions. Although his two picks didn’t hurt his case, Pickett’s second interception, a high pass to Freiermuth under pressure, helped the Jets set the game-winning score.
The inclusion of Pickett in the starting XI will affect more than just offense, but let’s start with that one nonetheless. With Pickett on the field, Pittsburgh’s offense was 50-50 in terms of passing and running against the Jets. The Steelers were almost as balanced in the first half, with 13 assists and 14 assists with Trubisky in the center. Even more similar was Nadji Harris’ play with both quarterbacks. The Steelers Pro Bowl running back had exactly 37 yards on nine carries in both the first and second half.
The Steelers offense is likely to include more runs with Pickett at quarterback. A strong running game is a quarterback’s best friend, especially a rookie. Harris’ workload may not increase much, but you can expect Jaylen Warren, an undrafted rookie, to get 70 yards on 14 carries during the first month of the season. Steelers fans could even see Benny Snell, a four-year-old pro who had 255 carries in his first three seasons.
Pittsburgh’s running game will also feature a new quarterback. On Sunday, Pickett called his number six times, with two of those runs ending in touchdowns. It looks like Pickett will have a chance to break Cordell Stewart’s 25-year record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback. Stewart threw 11 touchdowns in 1997, his first full season as an NFL starting quarterback. No doubt Pickett’s mobility will be used, but the Steelers would be wise to limit his runs to increase his chances of staying healthy all the time.
The Steelers are likely to run more often, but that doesn’t mean fantasy football players should take the bait with Pittsburgh receivers. In fact, the fantasy players, which include George Pickens and Pat Freiermuth, should be rewarded for their patience in the coming weeks. Pickens was Pickett’s favorite target on Sunday, with six catches for 102 yards.
Fryermuth caught seven passes for 85 yards, including a key 18-yard catch that started Pickett’s second run.
In terms of fantasy
“Pat Freiermuth really came as a big surprise,” said CBS Sports Senior Fantasy Writer Heath Cummings.evaluating the Steelers offense in terms of fantasy football. “Last year, he didn’t see the volume target that you would expect from a starting tight end. But he hit the end zone many times, so we didn’t care. This year he really saw his goals work. the only other kidnapper besides George Pickens to see four targets from Kenny Pickens. I think Freiermuth will stay strong as a starting tight end.”
It was the best of Pickett. He only #Steelers QB who makes this game.
Holding on, crashing, firing bullets, smiling like a sick man at the dude who hit him.
— Josh Rowntree (@JRown32) October 3, 2022
Cummings still believes in Dionte Johnson, despite his 11-yard catch twice on Sunday. Cummings said Johnson’s history with more goals should benefit him the doubt as Pickett settles on offense. Cummings isn’t as optimistic when it comes to Chase Claypool, who missed a pass on Sunday after failing to hold a deep pass from Pickett, leading to his first interception.
“I’m definitely more excited about Pickens right now than Claypool,” Cummings said.
How will the line of attack with Pickens behave? This should work better as long as Pickett continues to read quickly. He sometimes reverts to his old habit of being too indecisive in the pocket (as he did during his second interception on Sunday), and this is something he will certainly try to improve in the coming weeks.
Along with Pickett’s defense, the offensive line should continue to progress in the current game. Progress is being made, albeit slow, as Pittsburgh ran for a solid 119 yards on 31 carries on Sunday. The division did a better job on Sunday, taking Harris to the streets, similar to how he had success during his time in Alabama. This will likely result in more snaps for defenseman Derek Watt, who was once used as the leading blocker on Sunday.
Impact on defense
The move to Pickett should benefit the Steelers defense, which has struggled in the fourth quarter of its last three games. A more conscious offense should result in the Steelers defense spending less time on the field, which had been on the field a lot during the first month of the season. A more rested defense should lead to a fresher defense in the later parts of the game.
Pickett’s presence would also create problems for the Steelers’ defense. His interception late in the game last Sunday was proof of that. Young quarterbacks make mistakes, and sometimes the defense has to bail them out. The Steelers defense couldn’t make it Sunday, whether it was fatigue, minor injuries, tangible errors collecting all three. Even so, the squad will have to take their quarterback in from time to time and bail him out. The Steelers have defensemen capable of it, led by Minka Fitzpatrick, Cam Hayward and T.J. Watt, when he is healthy enough to return to the field.
Like Roethlisberger in the later years of his career, Pickett will benefit from the extraordinary talents of Chris Boswell, the greatest kicker in franchise annals, who set an Acrisure Stadium record on Sunday with a 59-yard field goal. Boswell’s range will allow Pickett to take less chance with the ball when the Steelers cross midfield. Conversely, Boswell’s leg may get more rest from time to time if the Steelers can complete more of their shots with Pickett in the center.
What will be the Steelers record with Pickett?
As we’ve already documented, the Steelers have a tough road ahead if they’re going to repeat last year’s feat by advancing to the playoffs after a 1-3 start. It’s safe to say that Tomlin faced the biggest challenge in his 16 years as Pittsburgh coach. Tomlin and the Steelers’ winning streak has never been more in danger than it is now.
The Steelers will never lose a season (“Standard is standard” is Tomlin’s most famous quote), and they certainly don’t give it up after four games. However, the decision to promote Pickett to the starting lineup is symbolic, as it shows that Tomlin and the Steelers are not “living in their fears,” another Tomlinism. The Steelers start with Pickett while maintaining their goal of being a factor in the AFC playoff picture.
Few will blame the Steelers if they don’t hit that target, especially if there’s a rookie quarterback in the starting lineup. But Tomlin has done similar magic in recent seasons. The Steelers saved the season 8-8 when Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges started separately. They went 9-7-1 last year despite having the worst defense in the league and an impromptu offensive line. The Steelers can work similar magic now, as Tomlin’s team still includes some of the league’s best players in their respective positions.
With Pickett in the center, the Steelers are playing both now and in the future. A disappointing season can be forgiven if Pickett shows signs of becoming Roethlisberger’s successor in the long run. But if Pickett can play well while helping the Steelers win games, the former standout Pitt will add even more legends to him in Steel City.
What scenario will play out over the next four months? Realists will choose the first, and dreamers the second. Historians…