The Steelers ended up over .500 last season, but there isn't much optimism around this offense in the Fantasy community. That's not to say there isn't talent, but Kenny Pickett needs to be a lot better after a rookie season where he failed to throw multiple touchdowns in any game.
Record: 9-8 (11)
PPG: 18.1 (26)
YPG: 322.6 (23)
Pass YPG: 200.6 (24)
Rush YPG: 121.9 (16)
PAPG: 33.6 (16)
RAPG: 29.4 (10)
2022 Fantasy finishes
Number to know: 0
That's how many games Kenny Pickett had with multiple passing touchdowns in 11 more or less full games. Over the past decade, Trevor Lawrence, Geno Smith, and Blake Bortles are the only rookie quarterbacks with more games of at least 18 pass attempts and one or fewer touchdowns in a season; his 11 tied DeShone Kizer, Carson Wentz, and Josh Rosen. There are some reasons for optimism among that group, though it's worth noting that Wentz still had five multi-touchdown games his rookie season, while Lawrence had two -- and, perhaps more importantly, was a full two years younger than Pickett at the time.
Cards on the table: I'm not a Pickett believer. He played five seasons in college and had a touchdown rate below 4% until his fifth-year senior season, and just didn't seem like a first-round prospect to me. He's a decent athlete and has room to grow as a passer with some decent weapons around him, but I'm skeptical he's ever going to be much more than an average QB. I know better than to write young quarterbacks off too early -- Josh Allen made me look especially foolish a few years back -- but Pickett is already 25, so he's not even that young. I think there's a better chance than not that the Steelers are looking for another QB after this season, but feel free to screenshot this and troll me if I'm wrong.
37 RB carries, 9 RB targets, 53 WR targets, 12 TE targets
Rankings and Projections
Chris Towers' projections
|QB||Kenny Pickett||PA: 542, YD: 3687, TD: 22, INT: 14; RUSH -- ATT: 69, YD: 275, TD: 2|
|RB||Najee Harris||CAR: 229, YD: 915, TD: 7; TAR: 54, REC: 42, YD: 254, TD: 2|
|RB||Jaylen Warren||CAR: 137, YD: 459, TD: 4; TAR: 27, REC: 24, YD: 165, TD: 1|
|WR||Diontae Johnson||TAR: 130, REC: 77, YD: 810, TD: 5|
|WR||George Pickens||TAR: 103, REC: 63, YD: 824, TD: 5|
|WR||Allen Robinson||TAR: 87, REC: 52, YD: 599, TD: 4|
|TE||Pat Freiermuth||TAR: 108, REC: 70, YD: 771, TD: 4|
Is this offense even worth targeting?
Between Najee Harris' regression and Pickett's struggles, there really wasn't very much to be excited about with this team last season. Pickett could take a step forward, but we're also not quite sure how targets will be distributed between Diontae Johnson, George Pickens, and Allen Robinson (plus Pat Freiermuth). Pickens has some helium thanks to some highlight-reel plays, but he struggled to consistently earn targets despite playing 75% of the snaps in 11 of 17 games as a rookie. I'm worried this might just be a boring, crowded offense with little upside.
One sleeper, one breakout and one bust
The case for Warren is more about the case against Harris, who has looked exceedingly pedestrian in two seasons since being the 24th pick in the NFL Draft. Harris has just seven carries of more than 20 yards and has averaged less than 4.0 yards per carry in each season, with similarly disappointing efficiency as a pass-catcher. I think that's more about the offense around him than Harris, but it's at least possible that the Steelers opt to give Warren a look if Harris continues to struggle. I think it's unlikely he'd fare much better in a lead role, but even if Warren similarly struggled with efficiency, he'd still be a decent Fantasy option if he ever got the opportunity for 15-plus touches per week. At the cost of a late-round pick, that's a nice upside outcome.
I thought about putting Diontae Johnson here, if only because he seems like such a safe bet for significant regression after scoring zero touchdowns on 147 targets last season -- he had averaged one touchdown every 21 targets the prior two seasons, after all. But Freiermuth has a similar case -- he scored just twice on 98 targets last season -- and has a much easier path to becoming an impact Fantasy option as a tight end. Freiermuth seems like one of the better bets for 100-plus targets at the position, especially if he can stay healthy and overcome the stretches where he wasn't featured much in the offense, as he had three games with two or fewer targets while playing 49% of the snaps or more. A 900-yard, five-plus touchdown season is well within the range of possible outcomes for Freiermuth, especially if this offense is just a bit better than expected, though there are some signs that rookie Darnell Washington may factor into this offense enough to cost Freiermuth a few snaps a game.
Pickens' price ended up being more reasonable than I expected he would be at the start of the offseason, which makes it harder to take a strong stance against him. As a fringe WR3/4, he's fine, though I still don't find myself going out of my way to target him much -- I'd rather take a flier on Marquise Brown or Mike Evans in the same range, or Jordan Addison a few rounds later. The problem with Pickens was that he just didn't show a particularly varied skill set as a rookie -- he was the fifth-best WR in yards per route run on go routes, and just 184th on all other routes. He's a walking highlight reel, with the ability to make acrobatic catches other players wouldn't even have a chance at, but he didn't show the ability to do much else as a rookie:
Now, just because he didn't do more than that as a rookie doesn't mean he can't, but the evidence we have right now suggests he's more of a DeVante Parker type than a true No. 1 WR. In what I'm projecting to be a mediocre offense, with a guy who earns targets at a consistently high rate alongside him, I think Pickens' ceiling is pretty limited.