Steel City Underground’s 2022 Steelers Awards: Offense

Steel City Underground presents their annual postseason awards to members of the Pittsburgh Steelers who had outstanding performances during the 2022 NFL regular season.

Every year, Steel City Underground does a postseason analysis of players who stood out in different categories in order to award those performances. This year’s offense awards were carefully considered based on statistics, the eye test, and individual contributions given by the award winner to the team as a whole during the 2022 NFL regular season.

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Best hands award

George Pickens

The Steelers didn’t field an offense in 2022 that was a points-scoring juggernaut; they earned just 308 over the course of 18 weeks of play. Pittsburgh did find a diamond in the NFL Draft, however, that quickly set set himself apart when it came to making some of the toughest – yet spectacular – catches when throws down the field were needed: rookie receiver George Pickens.

Pickens earned more contested catches in his first NFL season (19) than any rookie player since the statistic was first kept track of, officially, in 2016. Per Pro Football Focus, Pickens’ contested catches ranked third-most in the league among all receivers in 2022 behind just Justin Jefferson (22) and D.K. Metcalf.

Pickens caught 52 balls thrown to him (out of 84 targets), often in spectacular fashion, for a catch percentage of 61.9 and 47.1 yards per game in 17 games.

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Rookie phenom award

Kenny Pickett

Although the reaction to the Steelers selecting the former Pitt Panther quarterback in Kenny Pickett was mixed among experts, analysts, and fans, the rookie quarterback showed poise once he was asked to take the starting job from a struggling Mitchell Trubisky. Pickett had stood out in training camp and the preseason despite Trubisky and Mason Rudolph garnering the majority of first-team reps.

In 13 regular season games (12 starts), Pickett improved steadily, finishing the season with 245 completions for 2404 yards and 7 touchdowns to 9 interceptions. By comparison, Ben Roethlisberger (14 games, 13 starts) finished his rookie season in 2004 with 196 completions for 2621 yards and 17 touchdowns to 11 interceptions. It’s not an apples to apples comparison, however, as Pittsburgh was in reorganization mode offensively in 2022.

Pickett played gutsy ball, bringing the Steelers back for late-game, comeback wins in two big games that earned him respect among his coaches and peers.

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Surprise performer award

Jaylen Warren

The former Snow College, Utah State University, and Oklahoma State rusher in Jaylen Warren didn’t hear his name called on draft night in 2022. That may have deterred the rookie running back who’d been a prep standout at East High School in Salt Lake City, Utah. It didn’t.

Pittsburgh brought Warren into training camp and watched as he battled his way into the starting backup role behind second-year star Najee Harris. A punishing runner, Warren showed that he was willing to fight for necessary yardage, keep his feet moving, and grab anything extra opponents allowed him to.

That he was able to play such a big role for the Steelers out of camp, especially as Harris recovered from a foot injury, was surprising… at least to people who’d never seen him play previously. In 16 games, Warren carried the ball 77 times for 379 yards and a touchdown. The rookie also grabbed 28 receptions for 214 yards of offense.

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Trench warrior award

Mason Cole

As a free agent acquisition, the Steelers wanted to relieve Kendrick Green of the responsibilities at center in the offensive line by making Mason Cole their anchor and leader. Although it took some time for the offensive line to gel, Cole embraced his role and was credited for helping the line improve in the trenches in 2022.

Amazingly, Cole went unpenalized per Pro Football Reference on the season. He set the tempo up front for solid protection of Kenny Pickett while assisting the line in helping get the rushing game back in sync in the second half of the season.

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Comeback player award

Najee Harris

Despite the revelation that he had actually suffered a sprained lisfranc, an injury that resulted in a lack of time on the field during training camp, Najee Harris finished the season with nearly as good of a season in 2022 as he’d had as a rookie in 2021.

Harris came back to share carries out of the Steelers offensive backfield with Jaylen Warren to the tune of 272 carries for 1034 yards and 7 touchdowns. Harris added 41 receptions for 229 yards and 3 touchdowns.

With ten, Harris had himself quite the comeback as he led Pittsburgh in total touchdowns.

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