The Pittsburgh Steelers made a lot of good moves this offseason to not only better their team for this season but also for the future. However, in a loaded AFC North it may not make the biggest difference this year as rookies like cornerback Joey Porter Jr. and left tackle Broderick Jones have to marinate and grow as players. One analyst who thinks like this is Pro Football Focus’ Steve Palazzolo.
Palazzolo joined The Mina Kimes Show on YouTube today and said he thinks the Steelers will finish last in the division despite being a huge fan of their moves this offseason.
“The Steelers feel like the team where I feel really good about a lot of their offseason moves and where the organization’s going with Omar Khan as GM, I just don’t know if it’s going to matter on the field this year,” Palazzolo said. “It might not happen until next year. We might not get enough new knowledge on Kenny Pickett. It might be a year from now we’re gonna be like ‘Well Kenny Pickett’s got this new hot offensive coordinator and with this group he’s gonna be great in Year Three,’ coming off an eight-win season.”
The biggest problem Palazzolo and Mina Kimes have with the Steelers this season is offensive coordinator Matt Canada as they believe he won’t get the most out of this offense. This is certainly a fair assessment, but I think a full offseason as QB1 preceded by in-season experience for Pickett will help this offense take another step. The play calling was certainly not good, but if Pittsburgh improves its red zone offense the unit looks much better.
A big way the offense will improve in the red zone is just the game slowing down for Pickett. The game moves so fast for rookies and sometimes it takes a year for them to fully get comfortable with the speed of the NFL. Steelers Depot’s own Alex Kozora wrote the other day about how Pickett’s 41.5 completion percentage in the red zone must improve this season. An improvement on that number will lead to more touchdowns. That in turn will lead to more points and a higher points per game average.
The Steelers’ defense, if healthy, has the potential to be elite, and a little improvement to their points per game can go a big way into making the Steelers division contenders. I am of the opinion if things go right this team can win the AFC North. The run game took off last season and Pickett showed he can turn close games into victories, and one thing we know about the Steelers is they love a close game.
While I disagree with Palazzolo, his viewpoint is very fair. Pickett (right now) has the lowest ceiling of the quarterbacks in the AFC North, and Canada has not shown the ability to elevate a quarterback through his play calling or his offensive design. That is why he thinks maybe once Canada is gone this team takes off, but I do think they can win they way they are set up.
Yes, high-scoring offense is attractive and what people are drawn to, but the Steelers showed last season that they can win games by playing bully ball. Post their bye week, Pittsburgh went 7-2 and almost snuck into the playoffs. If Pickett improves even a little bit and the Steelers stay healthy, they should be better and make the playoffs, especially considering that their strength of schedule is weak.