With the 2022 season all but officially a wrap, it’s time to look at what the Pittsburgh Steelers can do to continue their roster rebuild. Could an ex-teammate of Kenny Pickett’s fall into their laps in the 2023 NFL draft? It’s still early, but it appears possible if that’s the route the team chooses.
While not a likely scenario, one early option could be to go with a “sexy” wide receiver pick. A recent trend in the NFL has teams selecting or trading for their quarterback’s favorite collegiate target. In the same vein as Ja’Marr Chase to Joe Burrow (Bengals), Jaylen Waddle to Tua Tagovailoa (Dolphins), Jalen Hurts and A.J. Brown (Philadelphia Eagles) and Derek Carr and Davante Adams (Las Vegas Raiders), Pittsburgh could reunite quarterback Kenny Pickett with one of his favorite go-to guys from Pitt.
Jordan Addison, a former Pitt star who transferred to USC in the spring of 2022, had long been viewed as a potential top-10 NFL draft pick. That is until Addison had a “minor setback” with a nagging ankle injury, as reported by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. He’d been nursing the injury since exiting a USC-Utah Utes matchup on October 15 and missed two games. Consequently, the third-year sophomore’s production has dipped.
Some draftniks have projected that Addison’s stock could fall slightly to somewhere in the middle of the first round, where Pittsburgh could ultimately pick.
To land Addison, not only would Kenny Pickett’s former favorite target need to slide out of his initial top-10 projection, but the Steelers would have to take him with their first overall pick. Considering the glaring holes along both sides of the line and in the secondary, wide receiver is not an urgent need for Pittsburgh.
Their reunion could be music to the Pickett family’s ears. In March 2022, Ken Pickett told NFL reporter Aditi Kinkabwala that he’s hoping “Addison can follow the Joe Burrow-Ja’Marr Chase model” and join his son wherever he’s drafted. Fast forward a month, and that team was the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Pickett is building chemistry with fellow rookie George Pickens and attempting the same with veteran Diontae Johnson. There are a few reserve receivers who have promise (ahem, Steven Sims), and 2022 training camp phenom Calvin Austin III is expected to take the field next season after landing on injured reserve in the preseason with a foot injury.
The last time Pickett and Addison were on the field together was at the quarterback’s March 2022 Pro Day.
Kenny Pickett-Jordan Addison Duo at Pitt
In their final collegiate season together, sports journalist Shaun Chornobroff called Kenny Pickett and Jordan Addison, the “most under-appreciated duo in the country.”
The Pittsburgh Steelers selected Pickett at No. 20 overall while Addison headed west to USC. But before that, the two combined for 2,259 yards and 21 touchdowns.
Pickett’s Pitt production landed him third in Heisman Trophy voting, while Addison won the Biletnikoff Award as the country’s most outstanding receiver.
Steelers First-Round NFL Draft Position
To the dismay of many fans, the Pittsburgh Steelers have won four of their last five contests and are 5-2 since their Week 9 bye week. As it goes every season around this time, Pittsburgh’s projected position in the first round of the April 2023 NFL draft shifts with each passing week.
As recently as mid-December, following their December 11 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, the Steelers owned the ninth-overall selection. After winning two straight, they currently sit at No. 16, per Tankathon, a site that tracks draft order after each game. Realistically, Pittsburgh will sit somewhere between the 12th and 18th pick (non-playoff teams get picks 1-18).
As the Steelers continue the years-long process of roster rebuilding, they’ll look to the NFL draft to replace talent at offensive tackle, defensive tackle, cornerback, interior offensive line and perhaps even inside and outside linebacker (according to a ranking by SteelersWire’s Curt Popejoy).
Steelers fans would surely riot if they heard the phrase: “With the 16th overall pick, the Pittsburgh Steelers select Jordan Addison, wide receiver, USC” on April 27. But, hey, the Bengals desperately needed first-round talent to protect their prized possession Joe Burrow after he finished 2021 as the NFL’s most-sacked quarterback (51). Instead, Cincinnati selected Ja’Marr Chase. We see how that’s working out for them.