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Five Steelers That Actually Had a Good First Half



Steelers defensive tackle Cam Heyward

As a whole, things aren’t really looking up for the Steelers during the bye week. Optimism has gradually gone by the wayside with each loss, replaced by the realities at hand.

A rookie quarterback is starting and still adjusting to the speed of the game at its highest level. A star linebacker is probably making his return from an injury too late to do anything but make the team’s final record respectable. The offense appeared to be in disarray for much of the first eight games.

Yes, there are a handful of positives individually, however. Let’s take a look at which Steelers players had a good first half of the schedule.

Cam Heyward

He’s the beloved veteran and a mainstay on the interior of the defensive line. His effort doesn’t diminish, even in games that have gotten out of hand. And some still had the nerve to suggest the Steelers should trade him before the deadline earlier this week.

Numbers aren’t everything. Heyward’s presence is vital to this Pittsburgh team as it continues its transition into a new era. Kenny Pickett’s locker being next to his should tell you all you need to know about that.

The leadership he brings to the table — in a time when the team needs a voice to call for accountability — might be his most important contribution this season. In his 12th year in black and gold, Heyward has three sacks, a fumble forced, and a fumble recovered. He’s made a total of 31 tackles thus far.

Diontae Johnson

In each of his last four outings — and all but one of his eight games played this go-round — Johnson has pulled in at least five receptions. On an offense that hasn’t exactly been the standard in terms of steadiness, the fourth-year wideout has been consistent if nothing else.

Sure, it’s disheartening that the measuring stick of success has come to average play, but fans should be happy with how Johnson has done after signing his fully-guaranteed contract extension. Nearly half of his 43 catches have moved the sticks.

He’s coming off of his best campaign as a pro, but the situation at quarterback in 2022 — with Mitch Trubisky starting the season with virtually no favor from the fan base and Pickett taking over and learning as he goes — hasn’t been as reliable as having a future Hall of Famer slinging passes.

He probably won’t fill the stat sheet as he did in 2021, but he’ll be a valuable piece in the second half.

George Pickens

It’s likely that Pickens’ talent and potential is the biggest reason that the Steelers felt comfortable enough to ship Chase Claypool off to Chicago.

The rookie Georgia product has shown a penchant for acrobatic grabs — none more inspiring than the one-handed effort against Cleveland that drew comparisons to Odell Beckham Jr. Fellow rookie Kenny Pickett has noted that Pickens makes catches of the sort he hasn’t seen before.

Through eight outings, Pickens has piled up 26 receptions for 338 yards and a score. He averages 13.0 yards per grab and has picked up 17 first downs.

If — and hopefully, when — Pickett settles fully in behind center, whether it be down the stretch this year or going into his sophomore go-round, Pickens has a good chance to become the chief target in Pittsburgh’s attack.

Larry Ogunjobi

The seasoned Ogunjobi arrived in June on a one-year deal. The Steelers are glad he did.

With T.J. Watt’s absence since Week 1, combined with Stephon Tuitt’s decision to hang his cleats up and Tyson Alualu’s faded role, Pittsburgh needed someone to step up in the middle of the defense.

While he hasn’t gotten to the passer as much as Pittsburgh would prefer, he has been a strong defender in the run game. His best game so far came against Tampa Bay, when he turned in six pressures, a pair of quarterback hits, and a tackle for loss. Despite being banged up at points, he’s been worth his pay.

Devin Bush

Bush entered the league with high expectations, due in large part to the fact that the Steelers traded into the top 10 of the 2019 NFL Draft to choose him. It was the first time Pittsburgh had picked in that early in the draft since 2000.

The fourth-year inside linebacker ruffled some feathers during training camp with some seemingly indifferent comments after the team didn’t pick up his fifth-year option. He faced the brunt of a good deal of criticism while struggling a season ago, too.

To this point in the schedule, he’s registered 44 stops and an important pass defended. He also thwarted a crucial two-point conversion in the Steelers’ win against Tom Brady and the Buccaneers in Week 6.

Although his stats this time around aren’t particularly setting the world on fire, he’s made some improvements and senior defensive assistant Brian Flores has been pleased with his play.

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