The Pittsburgh Steelers are gearing up for the season with training camp kicking off this week. With Kenny Pickett leading the way in his first full offseason as a starter, expectations are higher for the Steelers than it was a year ago.
However, Bleacher Report ranked the Steelers No. 14 in its latest power rankings.
“The Steelers have a lot going for them,” Bleacher Report writes. “The skill-position talent around Pickett is solid, especially if young receiver George Pickens takes a step forward in 2023. A healthy T.J. Watt is arguably the most disruptive defensive player in the game.”
Despite ranking in the top half of the league, the Steelers actually are fourth among AFC North teams. The Cleveland Browns (No. 13), Baltimore Ravens (No. 10) and Cincinnati Bengals (No. 2) all rank higher.
All of those teams have something the Steelers don’t have — a proven elite option at quarterback. Deshaun Watson, Lamar Jackson and Joe Burrow have all won playoff games in the past, and that can be intimidating for the Steelers. Pickett sticks out like a sore thumb compared to those three.
“It’s all going to come down to how Pickett progresses in his second professional season,” Bleacher Report writes. “And in an AFC North that’s shaping up to be one of the league’s tougher divisions, Pickett and the Steelers aren’t going to have much margin for error.”
Pickett doesn’t need to be on the level of those already-established quarterbacks, but he does need to take a step in the right direction. Luckily for Pickett, he arguably has the best defense behind him in the division, one that could help him win games that other units could not.
However, if Pickett doesn’t show growth, it likely will result in the Steelers finishing toward the bottom of the AFC North. DraftKings Sportsbook currently has the team at +450 to win the division, whereas the Bengals are installed as odds favorites at +150.