The NFL’s 2022 season hasn’t even come to a close, still hours away from tonight’s Super Bowl 57 finale, but Sports Illustrated has already taken a peek towards 2023. In a way-too-early power rankings for next season, the Pittsburgh Steelers are slotted towards the tops of the league. Writer Vinnie Iyer places Pittsburgh 12th overall and offers an encouraging message:
“Stay on high alert with the Steelers, who yet again avoided a losing season under Mike Tomlin while going through a major change at quarterback for the first time in a long time. Speaking of QB, look for the team to take advantage of Kenny Pickett’s second-year promise and making sure it is dangerous enough elsewhere.”
Pittsburgh finished 2022 at 9-8. Though they missed the playoffs, they went 7-2 after the bye, finding an offensive identity while playing great defense to keep scores down and games competitive. They won’t have to undergo the serious task of finding a starting quarterback as they had to do this past offseason. Kenny Pickett is the team’s unquestioned starter and nearly the entire offense will return. By the far the league’s youngest unit, they’ll look to grow next year. Pickett, WR George Pickens, and the offensive line should make serious leaps in their game next season, predictable development for young guys who went through the ups and downs of rookie seasons or in the case of the o-line, a new coach.
Defensively, the team’s stars remain but Pittsburgh will need to beef up its front seven and perhaps add a piece in the secondary, too. There’s likely to be more turnover on that side of the ball than the offense.
2022 was about a year of transition. 2023 needs to be a year about results. Winning the Super Bowl is always the goal but won’t be the team’s expectation. But they must make the playoffs and really should win a postseason game, which would be their first since 2016. That won’t be an easy task in an ultra-competitive AFC North and AFC at large but simply having a winning season followed by a quick playoff exit has gotten stale.
The tough AFC is well-represented ahead of the Steelers. In Iyer’s rankings, six teams are ahead of Pittsburgh at #12 including two North teams, the Cincinnati Bengals at #3 and Baltimore Ravens at #7. The Cleveland Browns come in at #19. The Kansas City Chiefs take the top spot though whoever wins tonight’s game will be #1 entering the offseason. Bringing up the NFL’s rear are the Indianapolis Colts, who have appeared to finally gotten around to hiring a head coach. Good for them.