Pro Football Focus predicts that Steelers rookies Kenny Pickett and George Pickens will be starters in the PFF 22-man starting lineup projections for all 32 NFL teams released on Monday.
PFF’s Ben Lindsay thinks that it will be Pickett, not free agent addition Mitch Trubisky, that will lead the Steelers offense in 2022, citing more questions about Trubisky’s ability than confidence in Pickett.
“The only quarterback who earned a lower PFF grade than Trubisky from 2017 to 2020 was Sam Darnold,” Lindsay wrote. “Pickett isn’t without his concerns as a prospect, but he has a better chance of providing a real upgrade at quarterback for the Steelers than Trubisky does.”
Lindsay has Pickens taking over the spot vacated by JuJu Smith-Schuster at wide receiver, and free agent additions Mason Cole and James Daniels taking over at center and guard, moving 2021 rookie Kendrick Green to the bench.
“The tackle position is shaky at best, but there isn’t any real danger of Dan Moore or Chukwuma Okorafor losing their starting spots given the competition currently on the roster,” Lindsay wrote. “The interior offensive line is more interesting, with both Kendrick Green and J.C. Hassenauer competing for spots despite not being listed above.”
Pickens and fourth-round pick Calvin Austin III are set to replace Smith-Schuster, fellow slot man Ray-Ray McCloud and backup outside wide receiver James Washington. The Steelers also added free agent Gunner Olszewski and claimed Miles Boykin on waivers from Baltimore this offseason.
On defense, the team’s starters seem fairly predictable, with Myles Jack taking over for Joe Schobert at inside linebacker and Levi Wallace replacing Joe Haden and cornerback. Lindsay does not have recent safety signing Damontae Kazee cracking the top 22, instead going with incumbent Terrell Edmunds.
The Steelers will return 17 of their 22 starts from the end of the 2021 season, with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, Smith-Schuster, right guard Trai Turner, Schobert and Haden as the only departures.