It's not all doom and gloom in Pittsburgh despite Sunday's 38-3 loss to Buffalo, the franchise's worst defeat since Michael Keaton donned Batman's cape for the first time. The loss dropped the Steelers to 1-4, making the second time in four years that Pittsburgh has started a season on such a bad foot. 

For starters, the Steelers appear to have found their next franchise quarterback in Kenny Pickett, who in his first start threw for 327 yards on 52 attempts against arguably the league's best defense. Pickett looks to have a receiver -- fellow rookie George Pickens -- that he can develop a prolific bond with, similarly to what Joe Burrow has in Cincinnati with star wideout Ja'Marr Chase

Pickett and Pickens' continued growth is reason enough for Steelers fans to tune in for the remaining 12 games on Pittsburgh's schedule. But if you're a fan looking for other reasons to watch the rest of the the Steelers' 2022 season, you've come to the right place. 

The Steelers don't quit on seasons. They have 18 consecutive non-losing seasons as proof of that, 15 of those coming under coach Mike Tomlin's watch. Rest assured, Tomlin is going to expect demand that his team plays to win on Sundays, regardless of the opponent or the team's record or playoff positioning. 

Pittsburgh is going to continue to fight, and based on Tomlin's history when in similar situations, the Steelers will figure this out. But how far the Steelers will go to salvage this season remains in question. New GM Omar Khan could try make a splashy trade, similar to the team's 2019 trade acquisition of Minkah Fitzpatrick after an 0-2 start. Tomlin could make changes to his coaching staff. He could bench non-performing starters, like former first-round pick Devin Bush.

Each of those things could happen, but the safe bet is that the Steelers will avoid making major changes unless things continue to spiral in the wrong direction. Tomlin did make the switch from Mitch Trubisky to Pickett far quicker than most (me included) anticipated, so anything is possible. But one can assume that the Steelers will simply try to put together the best plan to win each of their remaining games without mortgaging their future (as a splashy trade would surely do) on a season that is more about developing the team's collection of young talent, starting with Pickett. 

That may be a tough pill to swallow for some fans, and it should be for fans of a franchise that is accustomed to winning. But, as Sunday's game showed, the 2022 Steelers are more than a few fixes away from being able to compete with the NFL's heavyweights. The Steelers will continue try to win, no doubt, but this season should and ultimately will be judged by the progress made by Pickett and the team's other young players. 

Pittsburgh will surely try to help its rookie QB have success along the way, which should result in more wins, especially during the back half of the season, when the schedule lightens up. Will it be enough to keep the Steelers' non-losing season streak in tact? That would likely require the Steelers to win at least two of their next three games heading into their Week 9 bye, a tough task with upcoming games against the Buccaneers, Dolphins and undefeated Eagles

Let's dive into the five things the Steelers can do to better themselves this season while putting themselves in position for success several years down the road. 

Develop Pickett into a franchise QB 

Kenny Pickett
PIT • QB • #8
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Sunday's performance wasn't perfect, but Pickett displayed the mobility, accuracy, and quick decision-making that the Steelers anticipated when they selected with him the 20th pick in April's draft. While it's way too early to make any bold predictions, it's clear that Pickett has tangible and intangible skills that could allow him to have significant success on this level. 

The Steelers' offense wasn't necessarily built for a specific quarterback, but it's safe to bet that the majority of the team's plays were installed to complement Trubisky. Tomlin himself said recently that the Steelers won't have a better understanding of what type of offense/plays will best suit Pickett's skill set until they have more games and practices to evaluate. The Steelers have already begun the process of changing the offense, but the real heavy lifting will likely take place during the Week 9 bye. 

It's key that the Steelers put Pickett in position to have success, whether that means quick, easy completions to get him in an early rhythm, more safe check down options, easier verbiage in the huddle, etc. The Steelers also need to make sure that he stays healthy and avoids taking too many hits like the ones he endured in Buffalo. If Sunday's game showed us anything, it's that Pickett will not get any favorable treatment from the zebras, at least until he earns his stripes in the league's collective eyes. 

Pickett's first two games also showcased his fearlessness to take shots downfield. While it can sometimes lead to turnovers, that's an aspect of Pickett's game that should be encouraged, as better deep ball accuracy can be developed over time. It also forces defenses to respect the deep ball while leaving more space underneath. 

Grow Pickens into the No. 1 receiver 

George Pickens
PIT • WR • #14
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Pittsburgh's current season is reminiscent to 2013, when it rallied to an 8-8 finish after an 0-4 start. That season was when Roethlisberger's connection with Antonio Brown took off, with Brown earning the first of five consecutive All-Pro selections. The Steelers missed the playoffs that season, but the rapport Roethlisberger gained with Brown, along with the emergence of then-rookie Le'Veon Bell, set up what would be a successful five-year run for the black and gold. 

The same thing appears to be happening now with Pickett and Pickens. He may not be open 90% of the time, but Pickens is open more than he was targeted BP (Before Pickett). Pickens had just five receptions on a dozen targets during the season's first three games. Since then, he's caught 12 of 16 targets for 185 yards for an average of 15.4 yards per catch. 

The 21-year-old wideout has a unique combination of size (he's 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds) and speed (he ran the 40 in 4.4.7 seconds at the NFL combine). He is blessed with an impeccable catch radius that is matched by his magnet-like hands. 

Diontae Johnson is a talented player and I believe still has some untapped potential. But his play so far this season has not matched either of his previous two seasons, a troubling statement given that the Steelers extended his contract this summer. Fellow wideout Chase Claypool has also struggled to produce like he once did; he has two touchdowns in his last 20 regular season games after tallying 11 scores during his rookie season. 

Like Pickett, Pickens is the present as well as the future of the offense, and the Steelers need to treat him accordingly. Creating more opportunities for him will not only strengthen his rapport with Pickett, it may also help open things up for Pickens' older peers. 

Commit to the running game 

Jaylen Warren
PIT • RB • #30
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The Steelers said that they had to improve their running game this season. They have, but only if you compare where they are now to last year, when they were dead last in the league in rushing. The Steelers are still a lowly 29th in the league in rushing through five games this season, as they are averaging fewer than 90 yards rushing per outing. 

There actually appears to be a quick fix to this: less carries for Najee Harris and more carries for Jaylen Warren. For whatever reason, the hard-nosed Warren is having more success finding running room than his teammate. Warren has carried the ball 19 times with a 4.9 yards-per-carry average. Harris has toted the rock 69 times for an average of 3.2 yards-per-carry. 

Najee Harris
PIT • RB • #22
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This isn't to say that Harris is to blame for his lack of success. In fact, Harris deserves credit for playing inside an offense that does not feature enough of the things that he does best. Furthermore, there are whispers that Harris is playing through prior injuries, which would make his struggles even more understandable. Harris is an old school football player who would rather admit to watching rom coms in his spare time than having an injury. He would never admit to playing through an injury, even as it impacts his play on the field. 

Here's where the Steelers have to step in and do what Harris won't. Warren did receive more reps on Sunday, but one could argue that that was because the Steelers didn't want Harris taking unnecessary hits in a blowout. Given Warren more work would not only help improve the Steelers' running game now, it would help prolong Harris' career while increasing his odds of productivity in the coming years. 

More outside input on offensive play calls  

There are very tangible reasons for Steelers' offensive struggles under Canada. His offense did not mesh with Ben Roethlisberger's skillset. Over the last two years, he's had to run an offense with an offensive line that is a shadow of the unit that four years ago was hailed as arguably the league's best. Canada has had to coach three starting quarterbacks that have varied from an aging future Hall of Famer to journeyman veteran to inexperienced rookie. That's not an ideal spot for anyone, let alone a first-time NFL OC. 

That all may be true, but the NFL is a bottom line business, and the Steelers' offense has not performed at a high enough level since Canada took over in 2021. The Steelers have scored just four first quarter touchdowns since the Week 1 of the 2021 season. The running game is among the league's worst, even with Pro Bowler and former first-round pick Harris in the backfield. The overall play-calling seems to have gotten stale; the jet sweeps, screens, reverses and other wrinkles that allowed the Steelers to churn out nine wins after an 1-3 start last year have been non-existent this year.

There should be more input from other coaches (if this isn't the case already) from the rest of the offensive staff, specifically quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan. Sullivan has had two separate stints as an offensive coordinator. He presided over a Giants offense that helped New York win 11 games back in 2016. He won a ring while working with Eli Manning as big blue's quarterbacks coach in 2011. As Pickett's QB coach now, Sullivan probably has a better understanding of Pickett than anyone else in the building. If the offense doesn't improve, the Steelers owe it to themselves to see what they may potentially have in Sullivan as a future coordinator. 

Bigger role for Brian Flores 

I'm sure you've heard this by now, but the Steelers are 0-8 lifetime without T.J. Watt that includes an 0-4 mark this year. You may have also heard that the Steelers have a new defensive coordinator in former senior defensive assistant/secondary coach Teryl Austin. Austin's former role was filled by Brian Flores, a ridiculously over qualified assistant who joined the Steelers' staff following an unceremonious exit as the Dolphins' head coach. 

Like Canada, Austin hasn't been on the job for too long. And one can make the same justifications as to why Austin's units haven't performed better during his two years on the job. But the fact remains that the Steelers' defense has largely disappointed since the start of the '21 season. Pittsburgh continues to apply pressure on quarterbacks; they led the league in that category five years running. But the pass rush has dried up since Watt's injury. More so, the run defense, possibly the league's worst last year, is 23rd in the NFL through five games. Pittsburgh's defense is 30th against the pass, a huge drop-off from last season, when they were top-10 in pass defense for a fifth straight year. 

The Steelers' defense was completely out-matched in Week 5. Some of that was due to the injuries in the Steelers' secondary, coupled with the fact that the Bills' offense is pretty good, to put it mildly. But there were several plays that were just inexcusable, as Josh Allen too often threw to wide open receivers. On many occasions, the reason for the open receiver was a schematic issue, not a personnel one.

We don't know how much influence -- if any -- Flores has on the defense. But it would be a good idea for Tomlin to turn more of the defensive responsibilities over to someone who a year ago successfully oversaw an entire NFL roster. Not only could that help the Steelers now, it could lead to a promotion for a coach who surely be looking for a one this offseason.