From a star being born to a rookie learning the ropes, things are starting to pick up at Steelers training camp. Here are the four biggest storyline as Pittsburgh nears its first preseason game.
The Steelers have not finished below .500 since 2003, combining the end of the Bill Cowher era with the ongoing Mike Tomlin era. Under Tomlin, the franchise has appeared in two Super Bowls, winning one in 2008 vs. the Cardinals. Now, entering the new league year, Pittsburgh is poised to continue the streak.
The 2022 campaign saw a changing of the guard at quarterback. Long-time starter Ben Roethlisberger retired, and first-round pick Kenny Pickett took his place. The rookie signal-caller started behind Mitchell Trubisky for the first few weeks before taking the QB1 role and never looking back.
The play for Pickett was shaky at best, but he flashed some of his high-end potential throughout the year. Offensive coordinator Matt Canada kept the system simple, limiting the responsibilities and risk for his first-year starter.
In turn, the offense lacked a dynamic presence. Without taking many shots downfield, the Steelers simply didn’t have the “yards after the catch” playmakers to create with the ball in hand. Najee Harris, Diontae Johnson, and Pat Freiermuth are studs, but none of them would be described as “explosive”. Two other pass catchers fit that mold, but we’ll talk about George Pickens and Calvin Austin in just a bit.
Another roadblock in Pickett’s development last season was the porous offensive line. The unit was middle-of-the-pack in the passing and running game, failing to properly support the young quarterback. Still, the Pittsburgh Panther product flexed enough promise for optimism heading into Year 2.
The defense should remain one of the better groups in the NFL. It is spearheaded by T.J. Watt, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and Cameron Heyward, but a few additions from the 2023 NFL Draft might be what puts them over the top. More on them in just a moment.
Tomlin’s crew arrived at training camp toward the end of July and have logged some impressive practices in that span. Based on firsthand accounts from those in attendance, the intensity is that of a regular season game. The offense and defense are both prideful, so they take the one-on-one reps to heart.
This type of competition is why Tomlin and the Steelers are so consistent. From the top of the roster to the bottom, everyone demands excellence from the man lined up beside them. Iron sharpens iron, after all.
After narrowly missing out on playoff football in 2022, Pittsburgh has the foundation in place to become a legitimate contender this season. Here are the four biggest storylines from Steelers training camp thus far; will it be enough to vault the franchise back into postseason play?