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These Steelers Are Trending Up Ahead Of Week Five’s Critical Matchup

While week four’s ugly loss to the Jets makes the Steelers’ playoff hopes seem much bleaker, some players appeared to be trending in the right direction, somewhat easing the pain.

Last week’s devastating loss to the New York Jets was a critical blow to the future of this season for the Pittsburgh Steelers for plenty of reasons. It wasn’t all ugly, as some young Steelers proved they could be capable of greatness when presented with the right opportunity.

It comes at a much-needed time for Pittsburgh as they have been horrendous on offense for much of the season outside of a few drives. Lack of involvement, play calling, and subpar quarterback play is to blame for much of their struggles early on. Hopefully, all of that is behind the team as the Steelers prepare for their toughest test this Sunday as they take on the red-hot Buffalo Bills.

TE Pat Freiermuth

Before last week’s loss to the Jets, the former second-round draft pick had been under utilized, as did much of the team’s pass catchers. With just 11 receptions on 21 targets for 138 yards, it was time to get one of the Steelers’ brightest young stars more involved in the passing game. Mitch Trubisky managed to get the ball to Freiermuth a healthy amount of times before being benched, but the second-year tight end’s lack of targets in the previous three weeks was incredibly discouraging.

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Freiermuth in last season’s Steelers vs Bills matchup. (Rich Barnes/USA Today Sports)

With a new quarterback in for the Steelers, the hope is that the offense will open up and figure out a way to be more productive. Rookie Quarterback Kenny Pickett showed great chemistry on passes over the middle of the field to Freiermuth during the pre-season and displayed that again last week. Pickett showed no hesitation when throwing up the seam and to the middle of the field, which is where Pat Freiermuth can be the most deadly to opposing secondaries.

Many have heard this saying before, but a tight end is a young quarterback’s best friend. Steelers’ fans can only hope that saying proves true as the season progresses. Freiermuth is a reliable receiver in the red zone as well as in the vertical passing game. His target share should see an encouraging boost with Pickett now throwing him passes.

Very small sample size, but here are the Target Shares with Kenny Pickett in as QB in Week 4: • George Pickens: 33.3% • Pat Freiermuth: 33.3% • Diontae Johnson: 16.7% • Chase Claypool: 8.3% • Zach Gentry: 8.3% No targets to Najee on 13 attempts — Marvin Elequin (@FF_MarvinE) October 6, 2022

WR George Pickens

The talented rookie wideout had a frustrating first three weeks to the season as he found himself open downfield on multiple occasions, but was not receiving adequate targets. His usage before the Jets game should’ve been a crime, being targeted just 12 times for a total of five receptions and 65 yards. That all seemed to change this past week when Pickens posted his first 100-yard receiving performance and flashed his unlimited potential once again.

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(via Steelers Wire USA Today Sports)

George Pickens, like Freiermuth, is another Steelers’ pass catcher that should benefit greatly from having Kenny Pickett leading the offense. Pickett seemed extremely comfortable feeding Pickens the ball, and the two hooked up on a beautiful throw and catch to the sideline for a first down late in the third quarter.

Pickens has been used mainly as a downfield receiver to this point in the season, but he has the talent to do it all. The former Georgia Bulldog has my vote to become Kenny Pickett’s number-one receiver, and we should get a better look at his overall capabilities with a more diverse game plan thanks to Pickett’s gunslinger mentality.

Kenny Pickett to George Pickens 🎯 That sounds nice to say, doesn’t it? — PFF PIT Steelers (@PFF_Steelers) October 2, 2022

QB Kenny Pickett

The moment Steelers fans have been waiting for has finally arrived. Mike Tomlin gave the rookie the go-ahead at halftime last week after the offense continued to sputter, stating that the team needed a “spark.” In what was ultimately a losing effort, the new QB1 did indeed provide a spark, and the fans loved every second of it. Pickett made some very encouraging plays, despite having three interceptions on the box score. With the first-round quarterback having the keys to the offense, it is officially the dawn of a new era.

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Steelers’ rookie Kenny Pickett celebrates after a rushing TD. (Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports)

Pickett will get plenty of chances to prove himself as the Steelers’ next franchise quarterback. His anticipation and big-play mentality were factors in why the Steelers’ brass felt confident in spending a first-round pick on him this past off-season, and those traits were on display in week four. The former Pitt standout is full of confidence in himself and his arm, and it will be nice to see the Steelers’ offense get back to making splash plays.

Kenny Pickett showed enormous poise in the pocket, taking a punishing hit as he delivered a strike to an open Pat Freiermuth late in the third quarter. We’ve seen this before from the rookie and should continue to see plays like this in the future. Pickett’s ability to take advantage of a clean pocket and not get rattled was lacking with Mitch Trubisky, resulting in unnecessary sacks. You don’t typically see this from many rookie quarterbacks in their first real action, but Pickett did not waiver in the face of pressure.

Kenny Pickett opens left/moves the safety over, delivers a strike to Pat Freiermuth beyond the sticks on 3rd-and-8 and takes a massive hit from Quinnen Williams. THIS is why Mike Tomlin had to make a change; Mitch Trubisky isn't doing this. — Austin Gayle (@austingayle_) October 3, 2022

Other Notable Steelers

Steven Sims will get his chance to make an impact as a kick returner after Gunnar Olszewski’s return efforts have been a disappointment. The former All-Pro return man put the ball on the ground twice in four games at costly moments and has lost all of Mike Tomlin’s trust. Sims showed his effectiveness in both the return game and as a pass catcher during the preseason, and he will hopefully be able to hold on to the ball better than his counterpart. The 25-year-old’s shiftiness and vision make him an exciting player to watch this week against the Buffalo Bills.

I'm ready to see the Antonio Brown-like mannerisms/body movement of Steven Sims back as the Steelers' return man. #Steelers — Tyler Wise (@TriggeredWise) October 5, 2022

Calvin Austin III made his return to practice Wednesday and has 21 days to be activated to the 53-man roster for the Steelers. While it will still be some time before we see the rookie receiver out of Memphis make his first appearance in the regular season, it is good news to hear he is back in practice. Austin, like Steven Sims, has an exciting skill set that will provide tremendous value in the return game as well as the passing game. Here’s to hoping Austin makes it onto the active roster sooner rather than later and will be able to help the Steelers’ stagnant offense.

WR Calvin Austin III will return to practice today but remains on the Reserve/Injured List. We have 21 days to activate him to the 53-man roster. If he is not activated during that period, he cannot return to the active roster for the rest of the 2022 season. — Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 5, 2022



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