So much for a rebuilding season in Pittsburgh. While many are forecasting a possible down year for the Steelers, the standard is still the standard for Mike Tomlin and his team, as Pittsburgh has its sights set on another playoff appearance in the first year of the post-Ben Roethlisberger era.
Kenny Pickett, the first quarterback drafted by Pittsburgh in the first round since Roethlisberger, recently described the current atmosphere inside the Steelers' facility. Pickett is currently gearing up for his first NFL training camp after taking part in Pittsburgh's OTAs and minicamps.
The Steelers are coming off a roller coaster 2021 season that saw them make the playoffs after a 1-3 start. While Roethlisberger is gone, the Steelers, on paper, should have a better roster this season than last year. Pittsburgh added two key pieces to the offensive line in free agents signings Mason Cole and James Daniels. The Steelers further bolstered the offense in the draft by selecting receivers George Pickens and Calvin Austin III, along with tight end Connor Heyward. Pittsburgh also added pieces to its defense, including cornerback Levi Wallace, linebacker Myles Jack and rookie DeMarvin Leal.
Pickettduring his time at the University of Pittsburgh. During that time, he developed a rapport with Tomlin, who jumped at the opportunity to draft the reigning ACC Offensive Player of the Year with the 20th overall pick. Pickett credits Tomlin and recently-retired GM Kevin Colbert for helping to instill the culture that exists throughout the building.
"You can see why they've had success over the years," Pickett said. "It starts from the top down with Kevin and Coach Tomlin and how they run the building, it trickles down from there.
"I'm next to Cam Heyward, and Connor Heyward, his younger brother, is next to him. So we're kind of in that little corner. I've talked to Ryan Shazier. Cam Sutton has been awesome. Obviously, T.J. Watt, Minkah Fitzpatrick. ... It's just a great place to work. Every time I walk in there, I'm excited to be there and you can tell everyone's excited to get to work and they want to be there. They don't have to be there (at voluntary practices); I think there's a huge difference in that. Everything feels the way it should be, I feel like, on an NFL team, and I'm excited to be a part of it and kind of help chase more greatness for us."
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The 2022 Steelers are off to a solid start. The team had sterling attendance during OTAs, which isn't a small thing given the many changes on the offensive side of the ball. Pickett has had a chance to work with the team's other quarterbacks while also getting a chance to dive into Matt Canada's offense, which is expected to be vastly different this season.
Pittsburgh's players have also been bonding off the field. Pickett said he and several teammates -- a group that included fellow rookies as well as veteran players -- took in a Kenny Chesney concert at Heinz Field earlier this month.
"That was an unbelievable time," Pickett said. "Really, really enjoyed that. Had a little suite, had a bunch of guys up there. We were tailgating and everything, so that was some good camaraderie. We had to call it a night a little early. It was getting a little out of hand, but it was it was definitely a good memory to have going into our first season."