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The next step for the Steelers offense should be apparent to everyone

When it comes to expectations, those which have been placed on the Pittsburgh Steelers offense are certainly lofty. Whether you are talking about the additions to the offensive line, or maybe the maturation of the second year players across the offense, expectations are high.

But what does the next step in the process look like, especially for those second year players?

“I think you learn that as you play. Kenny [Pickett] is super smart.” offensive coordinator Matt Canada said. “You should expect a second-year player who has had all of this experience to do that. It’s our other guys, as well. GP (George Pickens) is a second-year player. Connor (Heyward) is a second-year player. Jaylen (Warren) is a second-year player. We have some other guys who are young, as well. Calvin (Austin) is a second-year player. We’ve got some weapons. That next step should show up on tape and show up on Sundays.”

The next step being obvious to everyone equates to one thing, and it will be blatant to everyone who is watching the Steelers in 2023, and that will come down to production. The Steelers averaged just 18.1 points per game in 2022, and in today’s NFL that simply won’t cut it.

A lot of the success, or lack thereof, will fall on the shoulders of Pickett.

“I feel like I’m in a good spot. We had a good spring,” Pickett said. “I feel like I took control of the offense and the system and kind of ran the show how I like to do it, which is a familiar feeling. It’s good when you’re the quarterback to be in command of the system. I feel like I can build on that in camp.”

Canada knows all too well the challenges which Pickett faced last season, and how it isn’t easy for a rookie to come in off the bench and be asked to perform in big games against superior competition.

“Rookie quarterbacks, Kenny got thrown into the fire. He had some turnovers. Then, he starts taking care of the ball. There’s a balance there to make sure you’re making the defense pay if they’re giving us opportunities. There’s also being too aggressive, reckless or whatever.”

Ultimately, it comes down to expectations for rookies, and with the Steelers 2023 NFL Draft class getting as much publicity as it has, those seven players are viewed as people who should contribute right away.

Canada reminds fans sometimes you need to pump the breaks on those expectations…

“I think if you look at rookies and talk about picks and those things, other really, really talented players who have gone on to have tremendous careers, their rookie season might not have been great,” the third-year offensive coordinator said. “You look at having a winning season, there’s a lot to build upon. That by no means is good enough. We have to score more points. We have to be more explosive. We have to make those plays. But I think the history is real. There is a jump, a certain expectation, a fair expectation that a player who started games at any spot to be better as we go. Experience, the reason those guys get better is because they see it and the game gets slower.”

With the expectation being evident to anyone who watches, you have to wonder what the magic number would be in the most important offensive category in today’s NFL — points scored. As stated earlier, 18.1 is far from the goal, but what would be an acceptable average? 24 points per game? While that number would put the Steelers in the top half of the league, based on 2022 averages, it also would be a ridiculous jump for the offense, something Dave Schofield talked about in his Stat Geek podcast last week.

Improvement is necessary, but can the Steelers get the job done? A lot will come down to those second year players taking that necessary jump. Will it happen? No one knows at this point, but we’ll know if/when we see it. It will be obvious.

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