In the years leading up to the 2022 draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers were in a bit of a slump. The team had some success in the prior drafts, but none could be considered home runs. For a team who bases much of what it does on the draft, this can be problematic.
Then suddenly a change occurred in 2022 and 2023. Maybe it’s because the Steelers gave up on trying to prop up Ben Roehtlisberger in hopes of squeezing one more Super Bowl run. What if Kevin Colbert had been allowed to move on from Ben Roethlisberger in 2021? Maybe the team finally realized the rebuild was way overdue. Whatever the reason, the last two drafts have been different.
Of course this theory of building the next Steelers dynasty hinges on just one player….Kenny Pickett. Hitting on the quarterback is priority one in any rebuild. The Steelers may have done just that drafting Pickett. What’s remarkable is if the Steelers really did hit on their next franchise qb, they did so in the worst quarterback draft in the last ten years or so.
The flashes were certainly there in 2022. Big fourth quarter wins over the Raiders, and Ravens give hope that Pickett is the real deal. Sprinkle in all the buzz of how much he has improved during the offseason, and we may be onto something here. Even the National media is coming around on Pickett now. https://youtu.be/hPtu8JOKKTA
Beyond Pickett, Pittsburgh may well have hit on five more players in that draft. The buzz surrounding George Pickens potential breakout in 2023 is growing by the minute. He has all the tools to become an All Pro receiver. A healthy Calvin Austin will be something to behold this season. The speed is real, and could be the explosive playmaker this team sorely lacked in 2022. DeMarvin Leal, Conner Heyward, and even Mark Robinson will be plus role players with the potential for much more.
We should start with the standard disclaimer that it is still very early to evaluate who good or bad the 2023 draft will be. Having said that, the early returns are excellent. All signs point to Broderick Jones being a hit for the team. If you’re building the next Steelers dynasty, hitting on your franchise quarterback and left tackle is the way to start.
Like the 2022 draft, there is much more beyond the first round pick. Joey Porter Jr., Keanu Benton, Darnell Washington, and Nick Herbig have all flashed during training camp. Cory Trice looked every bit of an absolute steal as a seventh round pick before his injury. Even fellow seventh rounder Spencer Anderson looks destined for a long career in the NFL with his versatility along the offensive line.
Now we are still at a stage where these draft picks could go in any number of directions, both good and bad. There is no denying however that the 2022 and 2023 drafts have the makings of something special. Stacking great drafts like this are what builds dynasties. Not unlike the great Steelers drafts of the early 70s.
Call it a hunch, but it just feels like the Pittsburgh Steelers are building towards something special. With a little luck injury wise, we may look at these two drafts as the ones who put this team back into Super Bowl contention. Maybe….just maybe even the next dynasty,