Why the Steelers are the NFL’s most underrated team in 2023

Pittsburgh Steelers v Baltimore Ravens
Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

Despite national pessimism, Pittsburgh is a lot closer to contending than many would believe.

Going into the 2023 offseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers were left with great excitement and legitimate skepticism. They had just rattled off seven wins out of their last nine games under Kenny Pickett, albeit embattled offensive coordinator Matt Canada’s philosophical approach. They missed the playoffs by only a field goal kicked by the Miami Dolphins over the New York Jets late in the 4th quarter, yet made significant strides towards the finish line.

A few months have passed, and it’s probably safe to say that there is far more optimism surrounding the team than previously. This was a crucial first offseason for rookie general manager Omar Khan. It was a make-or-break time to improve the roster and depth chart by week 1.

Surely enough, the “Khan Artist” broke the bank when it came to the number of transactions well-liked by fans made thus far. GM of the Year awards aren’t handed out in May, but there’s a lot to like about how the team is being assembled for the long run.

On paper, we’re looking at an indefinitely improved roster. It’s hard not to believe they’re better than the nine-win team from last year. The trenches were made a priority by Khan and Assistant general manager Andy Wiedl, and they weren’t messing around in the process.

Broderick Jones, Isaac Seumalo, and Nate Herbig complete a massive overhaul of the offensive line with James Daniels, Mason Cole, and Chukwuma Okorafor already in the fold. Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren will be running with much more ease.

Defensively, helping out Cameron Heyward in his latter years was not to be overlooked. Keanu Benton, Armon Watts, Breiden Fehoko, and the emergence of DeMarvin Leal all will make contributions to a stronger defensive line.

Skill position players aren’t to be forgotten either. 2nd-year quarterback Kenny Pickett will have more weapons at his disposal in the fall. Allen Robinson and Darnell Washington help form a formidable receiver corps alongside George Pickens, Diontae Johnson, Pat Freiermuth, and Calvin Austin III. The more options for your franchise guy, the better he’ll be set up for success.

The Linebacker and secondary situations were a bit bleak after an eventful season defined by inconsistencies and flaws. Cole Holcomb, Elandon Roberts, Tanner Muse, and Markus Golden will undoubtedly provide better depth up front. Mark Robinson is another name to watch who might break out in 2023.

Joey Porter Jr is a household name for his relation to Joey Porter Sr, former Steeler great. But that’s not the only thing he will bring to a secondary in dire need of reinforcements. Patrick Peterson, Keanu Neal, Chandon Sullivan, and Corey Trice all are notable yet impactful additions. MInkah Fitzpatrick, Damonte Kazee, and Levi Wallace currently reside in very valuable roles.

Coaching staff changes are commonplace in the NFL, but for the Steelers, they should not be forgotten at all and perhaps might bode well for them under Mike Tomlin. Offensive Assistant Coach Glenn Thomas, Assistant Quarterbacks Coach David Corley, Inside Linebackers Coach Aaron Curry, Assistant Defensive Backs Coach Gerald Alexander, and Defensive Quality Control Coach Jason Brooks were the newest hires to a staff known to be below the average size. The new coaches should make a difference in aiding Tomlin back to the postseason.

Overall, there’s little reason to think this roster will not improve upon their 2022 win total heading into the 2023 regular season in September. The biggest factors that will define the next season will be 3 names; Kenny Pickett (can he take the next step forward?), Matt Canada (will Canada do better in play calling?), and Mike Tomlin (can Tomlin coach Steelers to a better start?). All that aside, the hype will continue to build as we inch closer to Training Camp and Preseason.

2023 NBA playoff bracket, standings: Updated schedule, NBA Finals scores, dates

The field for the 2023 NBA playoffs is set! Here’s how the bracket breaks down.

Nuggets 104, Heat 93
Game 2: June 4 at Denver (8 ET, ABC)
Game 3: June 7 at Miami (8:30 ET, ABC)
Game 4: June 9 at Miami (8:30 ET, ABC)
Game 5: June 12 at Denver (8:30 ET, ABC)*
Game 6: June 15 at Miami (8:30 ET, ABC)*
Game 7: June 18 at Denver (8 ET, ABC)*
* if necessary

Heat 123, Celtics 116
Game 2: Heat 111, Celtics 105
Game 3: Heat 128, Celtics 102
Game 4: Celtics 116, Heat 99
Game 5: Celtics 110, Heat 97
Game 6: Celtics 104, Heat 103
Game 7: Heat 103, Celtics 84

Nuggets 132, Lakers 126
Game 2: Nuggets 108, Lakers 103
Game 3: Nuggets 119, Lakers 108
Game 4: Nuggets 113, Lakers 111

Heat 108, Knicks 101
Game 2: Knicks 111, Heat 105
Game 3: Heat 105, Knicks 86
Game 4: Heat 109, Knicks 101
Game 5: Knicks 112, Heat 103
Game 6: Heat 96, Knicks 92

76ers 119, Celtics 115
Game 2: Celtics 121,

An invisible advantage is fueling the Nuggets' NBA Finals run

Ohm Youngmisuk, ESPN Staff WriterMay 31, 2023, 08:00 AM ET

CloseOhm Youngmisuk has covered the Giants, Jets and the NFL since 2006. Prior to that, he covered the Nets, Knicks and the NBA for nearly a decade. He joined ESPNNewYork.com after working at the New York Daily News for almost 12 years and is a graduate of Michigan State University.
Follow him on Twitter »  Ohm’s chat archive »

WITH THE LIGHTS dimmed for the introduction of the starting lineups, Ball Arena directs everyone’s attention to the big screen for an urgent message.


Denver Nuggets public address announcer Kyle Speller proceeds to deliver a grim caution to the Los Angeles Lakers and their fans before the start of the Western Conference finals.

“All visitors to the Mile High City be warned,” Speller says in an ominous voice. “High levels of exertion at this altitude may cause hypoxia with symptoms of fatigue, difficulty

Kenny Pickett isn’t the only rookie that struggled to win by throwing the ball

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Will he take a big step up in his second year?

The Pittsburgh Steelers were 1 and 4 when Kenny Pickett threw the ball more than 30 times. The game they won was the lowest scoring victory of the season, a 13-10 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders. When Pickett threw 30 times or less the Steelers were undefeated with a 6-0 record. (only counting games Pickett started and threw at least two passes)

You can look at that information several ways, from an argument that the Steelers didn’t need Kenny Pickett to win games, that Kenny Pickett couldn’t deliver when the Steelers needed him, even the very basic fact that teams throw more when trailing and throw less when winning is a factor here. So what can we take away from Pickett’s 1-4 record when throwing the ball more?

To get a good idea of whether it is concerning or not, let’s take a look at other young quarterbacks since 2010 and how their teams fared when throwing the ball more than 30 times in a game.

Since 2010, 114 quarterbacks have thrown more than thirty passes in a game in the first two seasons of their NFL career. Thirty-seven of those quarterbacks failed to win even one of those games, 32% of the quarterbacks lost every game they threw 31+ times. Eighteen of those 37, and 25 of the 114 only had one game with more than thirty throws. If we cut the list to just the quarterbacks with 5+ games of more than thirty passes, the list shrinks to just under half the size, with 65 players qualifying. Kenny Pickett is one of the worst in the group with his 1-4 record, but again, the list contains first and second year games, and there’s a reason for that, that we will get to shortly.

Here’s the best records from our list of quarterbacks:

John Skelton: 5-2
Patrick Mahomes: 9-4
Andrew Luck: 16-8
Lamar Jackson: 3-2
Mason Rudolph: 3-2
Andy Dalton: 10-9
Carson Wentz: 11-10

Four good starting quarterbacks who threw a lot early in their careers, Lamar Jackson who was much more of a runner than passer in the Ravens offense, and two guys that started with strong records but couldn’t hold a starting job. Those are the only ones to throw more than thirty times in at least 5 games their first two seasons and have a winning record. Seven out of the 65 who qualified. In fact, of the 65 who qualified, almost one half (32 of them) won 25% or less of these games.

But lets look deeper into it, here’s those same players records from just their rookie season:

John Skelton: 1-1 (the win a blowout with 6 forced turnovers and over 200 yards rushing)
Patrick Mahomes: 1-0
Andrew Luck: 8-4
Lamar Jackson: 0-0
Mason Rudolph: 0-0
Andy Dalton: 6-4
Carson Wentz: 5-8

Andrew Luck was a unicorn, a rare prospect that was incredibly talented and NFL ready from Week 1 of his rookie season. Andy Dalton was NFL ready with a much lower ceiling, his record actually was worse his second season. Most didn’t throw much in their first season. Carson Wentz embodies the more common situation for good young quarterbacks, going from a losing record his first season to a winning record in his second season.

Here’s some of the other more famous quarterbacks in the NFL right now and their rookie and second year record when throwing the ball more than 30 times.

Justin Hebert: 5-8 (R), 10-8 (2)
Trevor Lawrence: 2-10 (R), 7-6 (2)
Josh Allen: 0-5 (R), 4-3 (2)
Joe Burrow: 2-6-1 (R), 4-5 (2)
Derek Carr: 2-11 (R), 6-7 (2)
Ryan Tannehill: 0-7 (R), 7-7 (2)
Baker Mayfield: 3-7 (R), 4-8 (2)
Andy Dalton: 6-4 (R), 5-5 (2)
Dak Prescott: 5-2 (R), 2-5 (2)

Most good quarterbacks make a substantial leap in win/loss record when relied on to throw the ball more in their second season. This data tells us that we can’t judge too much by Kenny Pickett’s rookie season record when throwing the ball more than thirty times, but that if that record doesn’t improve a good bit in his second season, then he likely isn’t going to be the long term answer for the Steelers at quarterback. It would be great for him to take a Joe Burrow or Derek Carr step forward, but we don’t want to see him in the same category as Baker Mayfield, a quarterback just good enough to hold the job but not good enough to lead your team to greatness.

Adam Silver says punishment for Grizzlies' Ja Morant to be announced after NBA Finals

Getty Images

NBA commissioner Adam Silver addressed the media on Thursday prior to Game 1 of the 2023 NBA Finals between the Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat, and among the many topics he covered was the Ja Morant situation. While Silver was somewhat vague, his comments make it seem like the Memphis Grizzlies guard will face significant punishment.

Nothing will be announced until after the NBA Finals have concluded, however. 

“We’ve uncovered a fair amount of additional information since I was last asked about the situation,” Silver said. “We probably could have brought it to a head now, but we made the decision — and I believe the Players Association agrees with us — that it would be unfair to these players and these teams in the middle of this series to announce the results of

Steelers OTAs Recap, Day 6: Cory Trice Jr. already turning heads

NFL: Combine
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers were back at practice, and it’s time to take a look at what went down.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were back on the field for Organized Team Activities (OTAs) Wednesday, and for those who haven’t been paying attention this isn’t breaking news. The Steelers have been participating in OTAs for the last few months, but Phase 3, which just started, gets the most news.

In case you don’t know, Phase 1 of OTAs is essentially just workouts with the strength and conditioning staff, Phase 2 is more position specific training/drills and Phase 3 is the most football-like of all OTAs. It is Phase 3 which is where teams can do 7-on-7, 9-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills. No contact, no pads, but plenty of news to go around. Before going any further, it is important to note these workouts are 100% voluntary.

There was plenty of news on Day 6 which wasn’t just the aforementioned topics, and in this article I will dive into those, as well as share some video fans might enjoy checking out!

Let’s get to the news…

While most fans of the Steelers are looking forward to hearing about Joey Porter Jr. turning heads, it has actually been the other cornerback the team drafted in the 2023 NFL Draft which has been making an impact at OTAs.

That’s right, Cory Trice Jr. out of Purdue as a 7th Round pick has been the rookie making the most “splash”. On Thursday, to wrap up Week 2 of OTAs, Trice was all over the field making plays in the form of pass break ups and even an interception.

While this might not be the rookie cornerback most people were expecting to make plays, at least there are some plays being made regardless.

Now it’s time to check out what else took place during OTAs…

Interesting Take from Dan Moore Jr.

Some say it is like driving on the other side of the road, maybe this analogy is better?




The top 25 NBA Finals performances of all time

Jun 1, 2023, 08:41 AM ET

As this year’s Finals take place with the Miami Heat facing the Denver Nuggets, we’re looking back at legendary performances from superstars such as LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Michael Jordan, with the help of Basketball-Reference.com’s game score archive.

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Game score, pioneered by John Hollinger, is a measure of a player’s single-game value factoring in all elements of the box score from scoring efficiency to playmaking to rebounding and defensive impact. Although imperfect, it quickly captures a player’s baseline performance and allows us to compare conference finals games going back to 1978 — the first year the NBA tracked individual turnovers.

Over that span of 45 years of NBA Finals, we’ve highlighted the top 25 individual performances, 16 of which came in victories for their team. How did each player succeed and what did their heroics mean for the series and the NBA playoffs as

The Steelers have actually been rebuilding since 2019

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens
Jessica Rapfogel-USA TODAY Sports

Some experts think the Steelers have another three years before they’re ready to compete. But Pittsburgh has been rebuilding since 2019. That would be a seven-year rebuild. The NFL doesn’t have seven-year rebuilds.

The Steelers spent most of the 2010s trying to recapture the magic of their second Super Bowl era that started in 2004, Ben Roethlisberger’s rookie season, and pretty much ended the night Tim Tebow beat them in a wildcard playoff game following the 2011 campaign.

Despite some real salary-cap hell, the departure of many Super Bowl heroes, and a major roster turnover, Pittsburgh surprisingly managed to build itself back into a decent contender again by the end of the 2014 season.

It helped to have Roethlisberger and his prime years still on the horizon. It also didn’t hurt that Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell became arguably the best receiver/running back duo (if there is such a thing) in the NFL. Both were, at times, the best players at their respective positions (Brown would actually go on a historic run of greatness). Throw in an offensive line that went from a real weakness to one of the stronger units in the NFL, and the offense would be the engine that powered Pittsburgh in the mid-to-late 2010s.

Unfortunately, despite some pretty exciting years, the Steelers, under the leadership of the Killer B’s-led offense, never got back to a Super Bowl.

In my opinion, the Killer B era officially jumped the shark late in the 2018 campaign when Pittsburgh blew a 2.5-game lead in the AFC North and missed the playoffs with a 9-6-1 record.

Things would never be the same after that.

Bell, who held out all of 2018, and Brown, who forced himself to be traded, were both gone by 2019. Roethlisberger suffered a serious elbow injury in Week 2 of that year and would miss the remainder of the season.

If the rebuilding of your Pittsburgh Steelers wasn’t underway prior to Roethlisberger’s injury, it certainly began during it.

Yes, the Steelers, with the help of a shocking early-season trade that saw them acquire safety Minkah Fitzpatrick for a first-round pick, remained in the playoff race until the final week thanks to a stout defense, but your eyes told you who that 2019 team was: One in transition.

Your eyes told you the same thing in 2020, even with a returning Roethlisberger, who somehow led the Steelers to an 11-0 start.

And there was no question Pittsburgh was in rebuild mode in 2021, maybe not fully—Roethlisberger was still around and surprisingly got the team into the playoffs—but damn near.

Last year was the Steelers’ first campaign without Roethlisberger as the face of the franchise in nearly two decades. Maybe that’s why it felt like the rebuilding had just begun.

Kenny Pickett, the rookie quarterback, struggled. The offensive line struggled. The offense was an even bigger joke than it had been the previous three seasons. Even the defense was just sort of okay without T.J. Watt for a significant portion of the 2022 campaign.

Maybe this is why the sentiment among so many—mainly, the national and local media experts—is that the Steelers are still two or three years away from truly being able to compete.

Two or three years? Rebuilds aren’t supposed to take over half a decade to be completed in the National Football League.

Pickett will be closing in on 30 in three years. Same with Najee Harris and Pat Freiermuth.

Watt will be 31. Cam Heyward, Mr. Steeler, will probably be retired by then. Fitzpatrick will be 29.

The Steelers have been rebuilding and revamping their offensive line since the 2021 offseason. You mean to tell me they have a few more springs and summers to go before it’s finally done?

I’m not some overly-optimistic, pie-in-the-sky Steelers supporter who is proclaiming that the team is ready to win a Super Bowl now. I’m just saying there is no way it should take another three years to be a contender.

Yes, the AFC is loaded with quality quarterbacks, but that still doesn’t have much to do with the Steelers and their rebuild.

Obviously, Pickett would be the second-best quarterback when facing a team with an elite passer in 2023. However, if Pickett really does have the talent to be a franchise quarterback, NFL history tells me it won’t take him until 2026 to realize that potential.

I will say this in conclusion:

Roads and highways often take close to a decade to rebuild—Route 28, anyone?—but not NFL teams.

I might be in agreement with the experts, if not for the fact that Pittsburgh, who started 2-6 in 2022, finished with a 9-8 record.

Young teams that are on the rise often finish strong after challenging starts. Young teams who finish strong usually carry that momentum over to the following year.

A young team that finishes strong is often one that is pretty much done with its rebuild.

A young team that finishes strong is often one that is just about ready to compete with the big boys.

If it does take the Steelers another three years to be in position to win playoff games against the likes of Kansas City, Buffalo and Cincinnati, Mike Tomlin really should be fired.

But I don’t believe it’s going to take another three years for that to be a reality.

The NFL just isn’t built for seven-year rebuilds.

Armed with new responsibilties, Eric Bieniemy makes strong first impression on Commanders

ASHBURN, Va. — At Washington Commanders voluntary organized team activities over the past two weeks, Eric Bieniemy had a first opportunity for his new team to watch how he works.

What players didn’t realize is that they’d sooner become more familiar with how he sounds.

“I’m pretty loud at practice,” Bieniemy said Thursday, “but it’s fun.”

After 10 seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs – the last five as offensive coordinator under head coach Andy Reid – Bieniemy became the Commanders’ coordinator shortly after winning his second Super Bowl with the Chiefs in February, later saying it was “time to move on.”

Head coach Ron Rivera also made Bieniemy the assistant head coach and was adamant it would not be a perfunctory title. For training camp, Bieniemy will be responsible for the finer scheduling points of practices and workouts, with Rivera simply supplying an outline, continuing a process that was established during OTAs.

“I just appreciate him allowing me to have some input, and he’s given me a little flexibility to help and adjust the schedules because he feels that certain things we needed to change, and I’m enjoying it because it allows me to have input,” Bieniemy said.

Washington Commanders assistant head coach/offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy watches quarterback drills during Commanders rookie minicamp at Commanders Park.

Occasionally, Rivera will check in to see if Bieniemy needs a hand. If Bieniemy has a question, he can always go to Rivera or director of football operations Bryan Porter. One example of his thoroughness, Rivera said, was Bieniemy making sure his plans were in accordance with the ramp-up periods teams go through at the start of training camp.

“I think it’s all part of the growth and giving him an idea as to what to expect and how to do things,” Rivera said.

Rivera assigned similar duties to former offensive coordinator Scott Turner, who held the job for three seasons prior to Bieniemy, and would also work with defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio to map out practices so both sides of the ball could address what they needed.

Bieniemy said that Kansas City’s recent success provided him with the currency to make the necessary changes he wanted to under Rivera.

“It’s just given me a little bit more responsibilities as far as being the assistant head coach,” Bieniemy said. “So it’s been great and I’m enjoying it. I’m enjoying all the challenges and the responsibilities.”

After six OTA practices, the players – who often refer to Bieniemy by his initials, “EB” – have been receptive.

“He’s going to bring that intensity,” wide receiver Terry McLaurin said.

McLaurin added that Bieniemy is detail-oriented and often encourages players to study on their own time before applying it to the field.

“When you come out here, and you have that kind of energy from your coach, you have no choice but to come out here and put the work in,” McLaurin said. “I think it’s great that he set the tempo and tone like that.”

Bieniemy is the same way in the meeting rooms, according to running back Antonio Gibson. Everything from the way players run out of the huddle to the snap count are coachable aspects of the game.

“EB is everything they said he would be,” Gibson said. “He expects perfection from us.”

The offense is still in the “intro stage” of installing Bieniemy’s scheme. And while perfection is indeed the goal, he said, it’s “about creating a culture of accountability.”

“I also got to look in the mirror and make sure I’m doing the right thing,” Bieniemy said.

As head coach of the Carolina Panthers, Rivera gave Steve Wilks (now the San Francisco 49ers’ defensive coordinator) the assistant head coach title and many of the same responsibilities Bieniemy now carries for the first time in his career. Asked if it was all part of helping Bieniemy take the next step in his pursuit of becoming a NFL head coach, Rivera replied: “Well, I think it’s part of what this is about.”

“I think he relishes it,” Rivera continued. “I mean, he’s one of those guys that very few people are gonna outwork, and he works very hard at what he’s doing and he’s developing his way of doing it.”

Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @BOOMbaca.

Keep reading this sports article on USA Today - NFL Top Stories.

Sources: Herro testing hand; Gm. 2 is possibility

Jun 1, 2023, 06:45 PM ET

Miami Heat guard Tyler Herro will continue to test his surgically repaired right hand, and a return to the lineup for Game 2 of the NBA Finals against the Denver Nuggets looms as a possibility, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on Thursday.

Herro, who had surgery to fix the third and fourth metacarpal on his right hand on April 21, will continue ramping up his workouts and try to get a sense of how the hand responds to contact before making a decision, sources told ESPN.

If he’s unable to return for Game 2 on Sunday (8 p.m. ET, ABC), there’s confidence that Herro will be available for Game 3 on Wednesday ( 8:30 p.m. ET, ABC), sources told ESPN.

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Herro suffered the injury during Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Milwaukee Bucks on April 16.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra on Wednesday said that