The Steelers were last in the NFL in explosive plays last year. That is right, even without explosive plays, the Pittsburgh Steelers somehow found a way to make it into the postseason last year. However, the Steelers knew that coming into this draft, that somehow had to change. In the modern NFL, it is hard to win without producing legitimate explosive numbers game in and game out.
So, the Steelers decided to go out and cache as much speed as they could in the 2022 NFL Draft. That started with upgrading the quarterback position. Kenny Pickett ran a 4.67 40-yard dash, and while that is not a burner at-large, Pickett can run and be a threat with his legs. Thus, there is suddenly another threat to worry about with the Steelers’ offense at large now that Pickett is a threat not just with his arm, but legs.
However, George Pickens is really where the revolution for speed started. Running a 4.47 40-yard dash, Pickens has legitimate deep speed. He fits best as an X-receiver in a downfield passing attack, and it is hard to not see the Steelers utilizing him in the same manner. There are other traits that Pickens possesses such as his body control and phenomenal hands that allow him to win deep, but his speed is one of those traits.
Then, they went out and added Calvin Austin III, a legitimate 4.32 sprinter who plays like that on tape. Everyone will say that Austin is the next Dri Archer, but Austin’s routes, releases, and nuance as a football player make that a different story. Austin is not just an athlete or a track star, he is a smart football player. His speed adds a new dimension to the offense where he can align wherever he may and defenses have to know where he is. That vertical ability to stretch defenses is useful.
When it comes to undrafted free agency, Mataeo Durant is a running back that immediately becomes the fastest running back in the room. He has 4.38 speed that shows up on tape. It is not a build-up type of speed either. Durant can flat-out fly and is gone. The Steelers now have a guy who has carried a large load at Duke and can be a home run hitter. He has to fight for his roster spot, but expect him to have a strong chance to do that.
When added in addition to their offseason and the addition of Miles Boykin, who runs a 4.42 40-yard dash, the Steelers were clearly trying to get the speed and add some set of explosiveness within the offense. That was needed, and now defenses will have respond to the speed that receiving corps in particular carries with it. Chase Claypool runs a 4.42, Anthony Miller runs a 4.38, and Steven Sims runs a 4.35.
This is a really fast receiving corps, and the Steelers are going to have the speed they want at their disposal. Does it turn into more explosive plays? If utilized right, it should. Austin and Pickens are not just speedy guys, they are naturally good receivers. As such, the Steelers may be embracing a more explosive model for their offense moving forward.