It’s NFL prediction season. Now that the schedule is out, the draft is completed, and offseason workouts are beginning, this is the best time to evaluate your favorite team’s chances before the games begin. For the Pittsburgh Steelers, all hopes reside on the development of quarterback Kenny Pickett. He showed some promise as a rookie and helped the Steelers avoid the first losing season in head coach Mike Tomlin’s 16 years in Pittsburgh.
The Steelers again brought an outstanding defense to the table in 2022. It will need to remain in top form for them to advance and make the postseason. T.J. Watt only played in 10 games in 2022. To compete in the AFC North, they will need as much of him as they can get. Here are the best and worst-case scenarios for the Steelers’ 2023 season.
Predicting the Best-Case Scenario for the Steelers’ 2023 NFL Season
Pickett finishing as a top-16 quarterback would be the best-case scenario for the Steelers. Sure, you would love to sit there and say, “best case is he’s the best in the league.”
The reality is that he has much too far a climb even to be a top-10 quarterback in 2023. But if he can finish in the top half of starters, that would be a huge step forward for the offense.
In 2022, Pickett finished 30th out of 34 qualifying quarterbacks in yards per game, and he finished 24th in completion percentage. In 13 games played, he threw for only seven touchdowns and nine interceptions.
While he had flashes of really good playmaking, he truly struggled in his rookie year. In eight consecutive starts beginning in Week 5, the Pickett-led Steelers scored only .46 points per minute of possession time. If carried out over the course of a full season, that would be the second-worst rate in the entire NFL.
Yet, the Steelers still won nine games. If they can improve just a bit, and get that offense into the top half of the league, they would drastically improve their season outcome with the defense they have.
In a best-case scenario, Pickett takes a big jump in his development, and the Steelers are in the postseason.
Predicting the Worst-Case Scenario for the Steelers’ 2023 NFL Season
Watt is as valuable a player to his team as any player in football. Not having him for an extended period of time in 2023 would be a worst-case scenario for the Steelers and would certainly doom their season.
When Watt is on the field, they are one of the five best defenses in football at preventing opponents from scoring efficiently. When he is not on the field, they are among the worst.
In 2022, Watt missed Weeks 2-9. During that stretch, The Steelers surrendered .82 points per minute of opponent possession time. If carried out for a full season, that would be the fourth-worst rate in the league.
With him on the field, that score prevention rate dropped by nearly 35%. They gave up only .55 points per minute of possession time. If that had been carried out for a full season, they would have been tied for the best in all of football.
That’s how important Watt is. An entire unit goes from first to worst if he misses time. If Pickett doesn’t develop as hoped and gives similar production to what he did in 2022, the loss of Watt would prove catastrophic for the Steelers’ season.
They would not only miss the playoffs but likely pick in the top five of the 2024 NFL Draft.