Kenny Pickett wins the 7th spot in the BTSC Top Ten for 2022, in his first season on the team. While #8 came 7th in 2022, in the 2021 BTSC Top Ten, #7 (Ben Roethlisberger) came in 8th place. Pickett is the third offensive player to make the list this season, but in 2021 Ben Roethlisberger was edged out of the 7th place vote by Pro Bowler Diontae Johnson. Najee Harris and Pat Freiermuth were the first two offensive players on the list in both years. Kenny Pickett edged out George Pickens in this year’s vote.
Kenny Pickett didn’t start out of the gate his rookie season, and when he came in he struggled right along with the rest of the offense. After the bye-week, when Steelers rookies tend to step up and play more/better, Kenny Pickett turned his game, and the Steelers season around. Compare these key stats from before and after the bye:
Weeks 1-8: 2 TD, 8 INT, 5.83 YPA, Steelers were 1-4 in games he threw multiple passes.
Weeks 10-18: 5 TD, 1 INT, 6.44 YPA, Steelers were 6-1 in games he threw multiple passes.
The biggest change is obviously the elimination of turnovers, and the impact that had on the Steelers record. The Steelers run game came together in the second half of the season and took a lot of the load off of the rookie quarterback. Along with that, the increased role for George Pickens helped, as he and Pickett combined for the highest passer rating on throws between two rookies (min. 50 targets) in NFL history. While Pickett and Pickens played great together, Pickett and Diontae Johnson were on the opposite side of the spectrum, as he and Johnson combined for the worst passer rating of any quarterback throwing passes to Diontae Johnson, worse than Mitchell Trubisky and Devlin Hodges.
I think that’s part of the process of being a rookie quarterback, and this offseason they will put in the work to be better, and in 2023 we’ll get to see how that work pays off. Here’s hoping this 7th place finish is just the beginning for the Steelers young quarterback, and his assent into the top 5 and higher is coming soon.
With Kenny Pickett leaving our list of candidates, we welcome Levi Wallace to the list of players now competing for the #8 spot in our BTSC 2022 Steelers top ten.
Here’s the list so far:
1 - Minkah Fitzpatrick
2 - Cameron Heyward
3 - Alex Highsmith
4 - Pat Freiermuth
5 - T.J. Watt
6 - Najee Harris
7 - Kenny Pickett
Here are the candidates:
Bold = led Steelers in stat.
James Daniels: Daniels signed with the Steelers and, despite being only 25 years old, immediately stepped into a leadership role. While Daniels struggled early adapting to his new offense and teammates, for the vast majority of the season he was the Steelers best offensive lineman. He played every snap the Steelers were on offense, so we don’t even know what it would have been like to not have him out there. That’s a good thing.
Terrell Edmunds: Edmunds has been a starter every year of his career. His role has expanded, and his play improved over time, and he has turned into a valuable “jack of all trades” type of safety, able to run with Tyreek Hill on a deep route or fill in as a linebacker and take on blockers and runners. The old phrase continues with “master of none” and that fits Edmunds as well, as he has never been a player that created splash plays or memorable highlights. It stands out that the Steelers worst loss and most passing yards surrendered since Edmunds was drafted came against the Buffalo Bills when Edmunds was out.
Stat line: 70 tackles, 3 tackles for a loss, 2 sacks, 5 passes defended.
Myles Jack: Jack signed with the Steelers in Free Agency and made an immediate impact, recording 10+ tackles in his first three games of the season to go with 2 tackles for a loss and a pass defended. Jack led all Steelers inside linebackers in snaps played and led the Steelers in tackles, both solo and assisted. Myles Jack wasn’t the player NFL fans remember from his prime years in Jacksonville, but he was a very solid run defender and before his injury, wasn’t too bad in coverage either. Jack is a good candidate for a Buck linebacker position, if he can be protected from tougher coverage assignments and allowed to focus on stuffing the run, he can still be a valuable linebacker.
Stat line: 104 tackles, 61 solo tackles, 3 tackles for a loss, 3 passes defended.
Diontae Johnson: Johnson has led the Steelers in targets in all four years he has been in the NFL. He’s led the team in receiving yards twice and in receiving touchdowns twice. Johnson has been voted a Pro Bowl player once as well.
Johnson is consistently open, creating space through his skillful releases off the line of scrimmage and his quick-twitch route running. While Johnson has excelled at creating space, his yards per catch and catch rate lag behind other receivers in the NFL and even on his own team. He doesn’t create a lot of yards after the catch either. But even if he isn’t the most dynamic receiver, being consistently open means he is a good target on most passing plays, and that will continue to drive his value and volume of targets.
Stat line: 147 targets, 86 receptions, 882 yards.
Larry Ogunjobi: Ogunjobi might not have put up the numbers he has other places, his 1.5 sacks is his lowest total since his rookie season, but he was an important player for the Steelers, filling the vacancy next to Cameron Heyward and playing a large part in the Steelers improved run defense. Ogunjobi is a play wrecker and he lived in opponents’ backfields. Whether he returns to the Steelers for a second season or not, his impact in 2022 was worthy of recognition.
Stat line: 48 tackles, 7 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks. 11 QB hits.
George Pickens: Pickens’ rookie season might not have matched JuJu Smith-Schuster’s 2017 campaign or Chase Claypool’s 2020, but Pickens was the most exciting and efficient receiver on the Steelers this past season, leading the team in yards per target, yards per reception and touchdowns. He and Kenny Pickett also set a rookie duo record for the best passer rating for any rookie QB throwing to a rookie WR. Pickens was rated by ESPN analytics as being the best in the NFL at catching a football, which is an important part of being a wide receiver.
Stat line: 84 targets, 52 receptions, 801 yards, 4 touchdowns, 9.5 yards per target.
Robert Spillane: Spillane joined the Steelers in 2019 in a move most people saw as a training camp gig. Spillane didn’t make the team, but they kept him around and when injuries depleted their special teams Spillane got the call up and led the Steelers in special teams tackles the second half of the season. He made the team the following year and every year since, playing at least 35% of defensive snaps all three years. 2022 was his first playing over 50% of defensive snaps. Spillane isn’t a star by any stretch of the imagination, and isn’t even the guy you want to be your starting linebacker. But when you don’t have those guys around? Spillane is a great player to have as the Nest Man Up.
Stat line: 79 tackles, 52 solo tackles, 4 tackles for a loss, 4 passes defended, 1 sack.
Cameron Sutton: Sutton has improved every season, and in 2022 was the Steelers best cornerback. He led the team in passes defended and was third in interceptions. He posted the lowest passer rating against of the Steelers cornerbacks, posting a fantastic 47.9% completion percentage allowed.
Stat line: 15 passes defended, 3 interceptions, 43 tackles.
Mitchell Trubisky: Trubisky joined the Steelers and won the starting job. The Steelers offense was a wreck the first half of the season, and while Trubisky was a big part of that, the results from Kenny Pickett before the bye week make Trubisky’s time as the starter look a lot better. Outside of an ugly game against Baltimore in Week 14, Trubisky didn’t turn the ball over much at all, and for all of Steelers fans calls to throw the ball downfield more, Trubisky was leading the NFL in downfield attempts when he was replaced by Kenny Pickett as the starter, with both Diontae Johnson and George Pickens in the top 5 for most targets 15+ yards downfield. After losing the starting job, Trubisky would play in three more games, and the Steelers would win 2 of those 3, with the aforementioned disaster in Baltimore as the only loss.
Stat line: 1252 passing yards, 4 TD, 5 INT, 81.1 passer rating.
Levi Wallace: Wallace joined the Steelers as a free agent in 2022, and struggled with injuries in the early parts of the season. He was healthier after the bye, when the entire defense was much healthier and had a big part of the Steelers defensive turnaround after the bye week. He played roughly 3/4ths the snaps Cameron Sutton did and was targeted more than Sutton. His struggles in the early to mid season give him far worse advanced stats than Sutton, but the last third of the season Wallace had very good stats, and he got his hands on a good number of passes. If Wallace can build on his play from late in 2023, the Steelers will have a very good cornerback.
Stat line: 13 passes defended, 4 interceptions, 48 tackles.
There is always debate on these articles as to whether readers are voting for the most valuable Steeler or best player, and to me that’s the same thing, so vote whatever criteria feels right to you, It’s your choice.
Who was the 8th best Steeler of 2022?
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