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3 Steelers who could be first-time Pro Bowl candidates in 2023

A look at which Steelers players are primed for a Pro Bowl-level breakout in 2023.

Syndication: Beaver County Times Michael Longo/For USA Today Network / USA TODAY NETWORK

In what has been a relatively underwhelming 2022-2023 season for the Pittsburgh Steelers, the team is sending only two players to the inaugural 2023 Pro Bowl Games in Las Vegas. Not surprisingly, one of those players in stud Free Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. The Steelers other Pro Bowler this season is T.J. Watt. With other Steelers players seemingly more deserving of the accolade, T.J.’s selection is somewhat of a mystery, although he remains an impactful asset for Pittsburgh and should regain DPOY form as he gets healthier.

The Steelers also have four players on the Pro Bowl Alternates list. Those players are OLB Alex Highsmith (who frankly is one of the biggest Pro Bowl snubs I’ve seen in a long time), DT Cam Heyward, TE Pat Freiermuth, and FB Derek Watt. These players have had standout seasons for the Steelers, and would definitely deserve to participate in the Games if added to the roster.

But what Steelers players are on the verge of earning Pro Bowl honors in 2023? For this article, I want to look at some players that have yet to earn a Pro Bowl bid as a Steeler but are on track to make a Pro Bowl-level leap in 2023. For our purposes, the alternate selections from this year will still be eligible for consideration.

Steelers players who are ineligible for mention in this article are: Cam Heyward, TJ Watt, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Diontae Johnson, Najee Harris, and Chris Boswell.

Let’s dive in!

George Pickens, Wide Receiver

2022 Stats: 47 rec, 700 yds, 3 TDs

Pickens is only being held back by his usage during his Rookie season for the Steelers. With improved QB play and better play calling to put him in position for success, Pickens could make the leap to All-Pro level in year 2, let alone make the Pro Bowl. The Georgia product already displays elite body control, catch radius, and contested catch ability in just 15 weeks of NFL action. The sky is the limit for #14.

Pat Freiermuth, Tight End

2022 Stats: 60 rec, 696 yds, 2 TDs

The man they call “Muuuuuuuth” has made the leap we all expected after a stellar rookie season in 2021 where the Penn State TE showed the ability to make tough catches and be a big-time threat in the Red Zone. The TD production is down in 2022, but Freiermuth has improved as an overall player at the TE position. He is well on his way to being mentioned with the Mark Andrews and Travis Kelces of the world.

Alex Highsmith, Outside Linebacker

2022 Stats: 52 tot tckl, 32 solo, 12 sacks, 5 FF, 10 TFL

Alex Highsmith should’ve been a Pro Bowl selection this year, of that there should be no doubt, even over his teammate and actual selection, TJ Watt. Not only does Highsmith have an elite sack total in 2022, he makes splash plays with regularity, as his forced fumble and tackle for loss numbers would indicate. Highsmith has one more year on his Rookie contract with Pittsburgh, and they would be wise to find financial room to keep the former 3rd round draft pick in house long-term. Highsmith and Watt are a top 3 pass rush duo, with Alex taking full advantage of his 1v1 matchups in big moments, like he did on Saturday night against the Raiders.

Dark Horse Candidates

Mason Cole, James Daniels, DeMarvin Leal, Kenny Pickett

The Steelers have some solid foundational pieces on both sides of the football to build a contender in 2023. If the players above can take the next step in their respective careers and the Steelers add a few more pieces this offseason to round out the roster, more Pro Bowl worthy from more key Steelers players could mean big things for the team’s overall success moving forward.

Did I miss anyone? Have any thoughts about the players I mentioned above? Let me know in the comments below, and as always, go Steelers!