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Are the Pittsburgh Steelers Set for a Playoff Run?

Kenny Pickett Fantasy Football

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a history of high expectations. Despite being the fourth most winning team since 2010, fans are still disgruntled. Compared to the rest of the league, Steelers fans are spoiled. Betting sites currently list the Steelers as low as +152 to make the playoffs. This implies they think it is more likely than not that they don’t make it. But as Mike Tomlin loves to say, “The standard is the standard” and this year he has the standard set as a championship. Is this just coach speak, or are the Steelers playoff chances better than fans think?

Pittsburgh Steelers Playoff Chances

Roster Construction

The Steelers had some pretty glaring needs this offseason. The offensive line was average at best in 2022, the secondary needed an influx of talent and the defensive line needed an upgrade. Now, Patrick Peterson is set to mentor two rookie corners with some serious physical talent. Cam Heyward gets to teach Keeanu Benton a couple tricks and the offensive line looks closer to a top ten unit than bottom ten. As a couple of players breakout, rookies impress and a few veterans play meaningful snaps, the Steelers playoff chances will increase.

Breakout Candidates

Now that the holes are fixed, there are also players primed to breakout in 2023. Kenny Pickett showed moxie down the stretch, but his counting stats were pedestrian at best. This is likely due to him taking the third string reps at camp, then being thrown into the fire of the hardest stretch of the season in 2022. A full offseason of training, new weapons and an offensive line to protect him, Pickett is a sneaky choice for both fantasy football and to lead this team.

Between Calvin Austin and George Pickens, this team is about to add some explosiveness to their offense. For some reason analysts forget that Pickens was a rookie, catching passes from a rookie, and only one year removed from an ACL tear. It was a worst case scenario season, and he still put up 800 yards and four touchdowns. Austin never saw the field, but even if he is just a gadget player or a jet sweep aficionado his speed has to be accounted for by the defense. As these players breakout, it will boost the Steelers playoff chances.

Plug and Play Veterans

Allen Robinson is the bane of many fantasy football managers. But, he is still a good presence in the locker room that can help develop Pickens and Austin. He fell out of favor with the Los Angeles Rams, but if he can provide meaningful snaps to give the other receivers a breather, he was basically a free addition.

Isaac Seumalo should excite fans who miss being able to run the clock out at will. He was above average in both run and pass blocking according to Pro Football Focus and is already the best starter on the offensive line. Between him and Nate Herbig, the Steelers added some serious beef to their offensive line.

Exciting Rookies

What’s not to love about this draft class? Broderick Jones is a two time national champion who kept Stetson Bennett upright. He’s freakishly athletic even by NFL player standards, and has the prototypical frame to dominate. He wasn’t the only addition that should excite the offense. Darnell Washington, another Georgia Bulldog, could play left tackle if he wasn’t too busy being the best tight end prospect in the draft. He fell in the draft due to medical concerns, but if he can stay healthy for 5-6 years it’s a win.

On defense the team added Joey Porter Jr. who should start day one. Cory Trice plays the same position, and might be more athletic than Porter Jr. but just needs some extra time to develop. Keeanu Benton is the perfect fit for the Steelers system. He will never fill up the stat sheet, but he’s a handful for offensive lineman and will free up everyone else to do their job. Nick Herbig should have some fun plays in camp competing with his brother Nate on offense. Herbig slots in as a depth piece, but Omar Khan thinks he has the positional flexibility to rotate at both inside and outside linebacker.

Strength of Schedule

In 2022, multiple sites listed the Steelers schedule as one of the top five most difficult. The AFC North is always a blood bath, and adding the Philadelphia Eagles and Buffalo Bills to the mix didn’t help. This season, the Steelers have a much easier schedule. Sites list their schedule in the top ten easiest with plenty of winnable games. Easier games mean better playoff chances for the Steelers.

Bottom Line on the Steelers Playoff Chances

The 2023 season should bring a lot of excitement for Steelers fans. Their roster has improved in almost every facet of the game. Mike Tomlin has brought teams with Devlin Hodges at the helm to above .500 seasons. If this roster doesn’t win a playoff game, it could be time for a change.

Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports


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