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The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

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The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

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Chris Matthews poses for a photo at the Global Hub in Posvar Hall.
Chris Matthews: Inspiring language learners at home and abroad
By Anna Kuntz, Senior Staff Writer • April 22, 2024
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By Irene Castillo, Senior Staff Writer • April 22, 2024

Former Pitt football players making an impact in the NFL

Pittsburgh+Steelers+quarterback+Kenny+Pickett+%288%29+warms+up+before+an+NFL+football+game+against+the+Baltimore+Ravens+in+Pittsburgh+on+Sunday%2C+Oct.+8.+
AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett (8) warms up before an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens in Pittsburgh on Sunday, Oct. 8.

With ten Pro Football Hall of Famers and 336 NFL alumni, Pitt football has a history of producing talent for the big leagues. Currently, 27 former Panthers are on active NFL rosters — 12 are No. 1 on their team’s position depth chart. 

Here are how these former Pitt football stand-outs are faring in 2023. 

Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett

Following his impressive performance to end his rookie season last year, many Steelers fans entered 2023 with high hopes for Pickett. But after five games, it’s clear that the former Heisman candidate will not have the sophomore season that many hoped for. 

Pickett — along with the Steelers’ entire offense — is having an up-and-down start to the 2023 campaign. The former Pitt signal caller threw for only five touchdowns and four interceptions to start the season. The offense, meanwhile, ranks third to last in the NFL, posting just 1,341 total yards through five games. 

Pittsburgh is 3-2 and on top of the AFC North, but Pickett and the offense are not the reason for this success. While the offense is struggling, the defense is dominating, posting 17 sacks and five turnovers in 2023. 

Many fans are blaming Steelers’ offensive coordinator Matt Canada for the unit’s struggles, but it’s clear that Pickett isn’t performing at the level he needs to. Between forcing bad passes to missing throws, Pickett needs to work on more than a few things if he wants to succeed this season. 

If Pickett and the offense can pull themselves together, then the Steelers should easily make the playoffs. But if they can’t, then Steelers fans may see their first losing season since 2003. 

Buccaneers defensive end Calijah Kancey 

Injuries are common in football, and they often hit at the worst times. Kancey — the No. 19 pick in the NFL Draft — is spending the start of his rookie season on the sideline with a calf injury. 

The former Pitt football defensive lineman first injured his calf in training camp this summer. After missing a few weeks of practices and preseason games, fans were excited to hear that Kancey would return for the Buccaneers season opener against the Vikings. But after only a few plays, Kancey exited the game after aggravating his previous injury. 

Kancey has not played in a game since, but there is still hope for the former ACC Defensive Player of the Year. Prior to exiting the game against the Vikings, Kancey recorded a massive hit on Minnesota quarterback Kirk Cousins, proving that he has the power to succeed in the NFL. 

While the timetable for his return is still unclear, expect Kancey to make a major impact once his calf is fully healed. 

Minnesota wide receiver Jordan Addison

Love him or hate him, it is undeniable that Addison is dominating in his rookie season. The former Pitt-turned-USC wide receiver has racked up 249 yards and three touchdowns to start his NFL career.

With fellow Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson sidelined with a hamstring injury, Addison is in a perfect position to make a run for Offensive Rookie of the Year. 

Addison’s most impressive moment of the year came in the third quarter of the Vikings game against the Eagles on Sept. 14. With his team down 27-7, Addison stepped up, shrugging off an Eagles defender on his way to a 62-yard touchdown reception. 

While his team is currently struggling, Addison has the potential to post a great rookie season and eventually become one of the NFL’s top receivers. 

Bills safety Damar Hamlin

After his harrowing on-field collapse and subsequent fight for his life earlier this year, not many expected Hamlin to ever return to playing football. But after only eight months of recovery, Hamlin is back in the NFL and looking to take the field once more.

Hamlin made his return to regular season action in the Bills game against the Dolphins on Oct. 1. The former Pitt defensive backs’ role in the game was minor, but it was a major step forward in Hamlin’s recovery. 

While it remains unclear if Hamlin will ever return to his pre-injury form, fans across the nation are excited just to see the Bills safety take the field again.

About the Contributor
Brian Sherry, Sports Editor