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2023 Player Outlooks: Pittsburgh Steelers

By Colby Cavaliere | 6/12/23 |

QB Kenny Pickett
2022 QB Rank - No.28, 14.6 FPts/G

Likely playing before he was ready, Pickett had a rocky rookie season for the Steelers. Making his first start in Week 4 for an ineffective Mitchell Trubisky, Pickett struggled, throwing eight interceptions and only two touchdowns in his first five NFL games, going 1-4 in the process. Pickett and the offense became more conservative and the rookie only tossed one more interception over the final seven games he played.

Being shaky with the ball is expected from most rookie quarterbacks, and Kenny took a South Parkesque beating behind a terrible line, suffering multiple concussions. As long as those donít become habitual, things are shaping up well for Pickett and this Steeler offense to make some fantasy noise. Pittsburgh added tackle Broderick Jones in Round 1, and stole guard Isacc Seumalo from their cross-state rivals. With a sneaky running floor (237 yards and three touchdowns in just 12 games), an improved run game, and dynamic talent at wide receiver, Pickett could be worth a late-round pick on a fantasy team looking for an end of the draft value at QB.

RB Najee Harris
2022 RB Rank - No.12, 11.0 FPts/G

After being nearly the entire Steeler offense in 2021, Harrisís numbers took a dip last season. Down over 400 total yards and 33 receptions, Harris continued to be a volume driven, low efficiency option. Yes the line was brutal, but Harris has yet to display much burst and wiggle in the NFL. His single carry for 20+ yards was by far the fewest among backs with 200 or more carries and over his first 579 NFL totes, the longest rush heís been able to muster is a measly 37 yards. Because heís fundamentally sound and durable, heíll remain the workhorse for this team, but Pittsburgh has to get more splash plays from this running game if they are going to compete in this loaded division. Donít be shocked to see Jaylen Warren, who ran for 4.9 yards per carry behind that same cruddy o-line, steal some work from Harris. I think weíve seen what Harris is over his first two seasons, and itís a borderline RB1/2 in all formats with little room to climb.

RB Jaylen Warren
2022 RB Rank - No.53 4.1 FPts/G

After going undrafted last season, Warren joined the Steelers as a free agent and quickly proved he belonged in the NFL despite borderline measurables. Warren ended up playing a bunch of meaningful snaps on a team fighting for a playoff berth, finishing with almost 600 total yards. He provided a surprising little pop to the offense, giving the running game a burst. His 4.9 yards-per-carry average was outstanding considering he was running behind one of the worst run blocking units in the NFL. While he lacks standalone value because of how much the Steelers rely on Harris, heís definitely worth a look as a sneaky handcuff.

Diontae Johnson

WR Diontae Johnson
2022 WR Rank - No.46 5.3 FPts/G

No one ever tries to set records that will live in infamy, but Diontae Joshnson did just that last season as he set the NFL record for most receptions in a season (86) without scoring a single touchdown. Such a fluky season hasnít been seen in the NFL since 1961, when Hall of Famer Raymond Berry failed to score on 75 receptions. But as miserable as it was for Johnson himself, imagine the weekly agony fantasy owners endured. Unfortunately, I was one of them. Despite monster target numbers, Johnson simply couldnít get much going with the inconsistency at quarterback. He also didnít help himself or his team by continuing to be plagued by inopportune drops. While 2022 will likely go down as a statistical aberration, and Johnson is sure to have some positive regression in the touchdown department, I can envision a world where 2nd year man George Pickens becomes the alpha in this pass offense. Johnson worked the field perfectly under an offense built on the short pass, but those days have come to an end. The addition of Allen Robinson, and the healthy return of 2022 4th round speedster Calvin Austin, means Johnsonís path to another 147-target season could be filled with roadblocks.

WR George Pickens
2022 WR Rank - No.34 6.6 FPts/G

Coming into the NFL Pickens was compared to fellow Bulldog A.J. Green, and boy were those comps accurate. Raw, but simply dazzling at times with elite body control and athleticism, Pickens flashed massive potential after a slow start to the season, and displayed clear chemistry with fellow rookie Kenny Pickett. Pickens was 15th amongst receivers with 17 receptions of 20+ yards, and an impressive 73% of his receptions went for 1st downs. Great numbers especially for a rookie who only made 12 career collegiate starts. The pair were dynamic at times, and have the opportunity to grow into the next young QB-WR combo. If Pickens can continue to fine-tune his route running, and scheme discipline, he has the athletic talent to be a WR1. How quickly he and Pickett develop is going to be key, but I love him as a high upside WR3 in standard leagues who has league winning potential.

TE Pat Freiermuth
2022 TE Rank - No.13, 5.7 FPts/G

Despite a big uptick in receptions, Freiermuth took a hit in the touchdown department last season, regressing to just two, after scoring seven his rookie season. Plagued by an offense that couldn’t get much done in the red zone (their 51.92 touchdown % was 22nd in the NFL), Freiermuth couldn’t butter his bread with enough touchdowns. With the talent out wide, and Harris gobbling up catches at or near the line, Freiermuth’s value is going to come from the number of times he gets into the endzone. In a fantasy position that's in a near constant state of flux, Freiermuth offers some solid, if unexciting late round value.

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