To the surprise of some, the Pittsburgh Steelers had their choice of any quarterback in last week’s NFL Draft. Without needing to move their position at all, the Steelers took former Pitt Panther quarterback Kenny Pickett with the 20th overall pick.
While many analysts gave the nod for overall talent to Liberty QB Malik Willis, Pickett was highly regarded as the player most ready to win now at the position.
Pittsburgh didn’t stop there in its attempt to revamp a struggling offense. It snagged five offensive players in total out of its seven choices.
This included second-round wide receiver George Pickens out of Georgia. The sizable wideout is highly regarded and appears like he’ll fill the void left by JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Let’s take a deeper look at the Steelers’ 2022 draft class and where their odds sit at West Virginia sportsbooks right now.
Steelers draft Kenny Pickett
Although the team added Mitchell Trubisky this offseason, it knew it was looking for a long-term solution at signal-caller still.
The front office wasn’t exactly sure how the first round would work out in terms of the quarterbacks. Pickett and Willis featured the best odds to be the first two taken off the board entering the draft.
DraftKings WV listed Willis’ draft position at 10.5, with Pickett’s at 12.5.
Luckily, neither went as high as those projections, giving the Steelers the option of both prospects.
Considering where Pittsburgh is at as a whole, it’s not surprising that it kept Pickett in town. The roster is talented in lots of areas and this team can certainly win some ball games this season.
Future Hall of Famer Ben Roethlisberger was holding the Steelers back for a good portion of the last two years. He finished 2021 with a QBR of 35.6, which ranked 25th among starters.
Saying goodbye to a legend is never easy, however, Pittsburgh is in a better place now. Pickett might run into some rookie struggles like most others, but his current ceiling is much higher than last season’s version of Big Ben.
Last year, Pickett completed over 67% of his passes for more than 4,300 yards. He totaled 47 touchdowns on the campaign and tossed just seven interceptions. Pickett’s brilliant season earned him a trip to New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation, where he finished third.
One noteworthy tidbit that came out during the draft process was the size of Pickett’s hands. Even though they’re smaller than any starter in the NFL, they didn’t seem to affect the quarterback in college. Part of his ESPN analysis states that he “shows good touch and timing as a deep passer.”
Pickett isn’t necessarily a running QB, but he possesses good feet and can move when he needs to. He carried the ball almost 100 times last year for the Panthers, gaining around 250 yards on the ground.
Pittsburgh addresses offensive needs
Head coach Mike Tomlin likely allows both Pickett and Trubisky an opportunity to win the starting job this summer. Since we’ve seen what the former Bears QB can do, for the most part, the staff will probably be pulling for Pickett.
Whoever gets the edge will enjoy what’s waiting for them in the offensive huddle.
At 6’3”, Pickens provides another massive target on the outside. He joins the likes of Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool in the receiver room, along with fellow rookie Calvin Austin III.
Pittsburgh used its fifth-round selection on the wideout from Memphis, who looks like he’ll fill the roles Pickens won’t.
Austin III is significantly smaller (5’8”, 170 lbs) and should get looks in the slot, as well as on the punt return unit. Smith-Schuster and James Washington won’t be missed too much.
This receiving corps includes a little bit of everything, which is a good way to help a rookie QB. Of course, there’s tight end Pat Freiermuth and workhorse running back Najee Harris, as well.
The Steelers also added some pieces to the defense.
In the third round, they picked Texas A&M defensive end, DeMarvin Leal. He performed well a year ago, compiling 8.5 sacks in a tie for the team lead. He’ll likely take a role as a situational rusher, perhaps eventually replacing someone like Stephon Tuitt.
Pittsburgh drafted outside linebacker Mark Robinson out of Mississippi in the final round, too.
Pickett ended up not being the only QB taken. The team picked another in Chris Oladokun with the 20th choice in the seventh round. With Mason Rudolph also on the Pittsburgh roster, Oladokun is someone who might find a spot on the practice squad.
Steelers odds at WV sportsbooks
It’s not shocking that Pittsburgh owns the worst odds to win the AFC North at this point in the offseason. Its division is stacked again this year and features some of the best young quarterbacks in football.
If available, the Browns’ recent addition of Deshaun Watson might be the best overall of the group. While former MVP Lamar Jackson and Super Bowl runner-up Joe Burrow are proven franchise players already.
This leaves the Steelers as the one missing a crucial piece in most championship contenders. But, unlike last year, there’s some hope that there are some answers on this current roster.
At the moment, DraftKings highlights Pittsburgh with the worst odds to win the division at +800. It shows the Browns as the favorite at +175, with both Cincinnati (+200) and Baltimore (+225) right behind.
That might be disappointing for fans, but there is a slight silver lining. The book has the Steelers’ win total at 7.5, projecting them to be around the .500 mark.
Just a few additional wins could find a position in the slightly expanded playoffs.
Naturally, DraftKings provides a market for this, which lists the Steelers to qualify for the postseason at +275, with the no option at -360.