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Tribune News Service
Tribune News Service
Gerry Dulac

Steelers' Art Rooney II encouraged by strong close to season, young core's progression

Steelers president Art Rooney II said he is "encouraged" with the direction of the team after the strong finish to the 2022 season, and he did not think the offense needed a change in coordinator and was excited about the development of rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett.

But he acknowledged the Steelers "have a lot of areas to improve on" if they want to challenge the Cincinnati Bengals for the AFC North title.

"They're going to be hard to compete with in the future," Rooney said.

Rooney made the comments on Thursday during his year-end meeting with some members of the media who cover the Steelers.

"You want to see a team improve, no matter what your record," Rooney said. "That's what you're shooting for. That's what we did."

Despite missing the postseason for the first time in three years, Rooney said going 7-2 after the bye with a rookie quarterback and finishing the regular season with four consecutive victories made up for the 2-6 start.

"I liked the way the team kept fighting down the stretch and keeping us alive," Rooney said. "The Number 1 thing I want to see is if you get better as the season goes on. It should be your best team as the season goes on. I think we did that."

After a season in which the league scoring average (21.9 points) was the lowest since 2017 and 12 offensive coordinators/play-callers have already either been fired or resigned, the Steelers did not make any changes to their offensive staff despite ranking 26th in scoring and producing the third-fewest touchdowns (28) in the league.

Rooney said the decision to retain offensive coordinator Matt Canada was based on Pickett's development but also the improvement in the running game.

"They seemed to work well together," Rooney said. "With a new offensive coordinator, you'd start all over again. We felt there was enough there to build on."

Rooney said Pickett's progress — he finished with a record of 7-5 in his 12 starts — was "great to see" and thinks the offense, with young players such as Najee Harris, Pat Freiermuth and George Pickens, "may have the pieces around him we need."

Rooney also noted the improvement in the running game as a reason for optimism in the offense going forward. The Steelers averaged 142.1 yards rushing in the final seven games.

"We were out-rushing teams, and that can be a formula for success," he said.

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