Steve was a junior in high school and a part-time employee at Family Video. He attended Miss Click's history class alongside sophomore Robin Buckley. They both had a hard time getting along due to their feuding over their crushes and Steve's obnoxious behavior in class. Steve later worked at the Starcourt Mall's ice cream shop, Scoops Ahoy, alongside Robin, and was irritated by her snarky personality.
On the night of the pool party, Nancy told Steve that she was upset about Barb's death. When he asked her to go out that night with him to "pretend everything is normal for a few hours," she agreed. However, Steve later saw Jonathan in the darkroom developing furtive photographs of her and began calling him a pervert. This triggered her grief and made her run into the woods, where she was killed by the Demogorgon.
The next morning, Steve woke up to a noticeably unkempt house and a strange noise. He found Max possessed and stuck in a trance, but was unable to shake him out of it. He was able to hear via their walkie-talkies that music could help, so they played the song Running Up That Hill over and over. Max returned to normal after that.
After the Mind Flayer was defeated, Steve had feelings for Nancy again and was glad to have her by his side again. He also grew closer to Robin as he helped her deal with her new crush, Vickie. As the season continued, he became a parental figure or mentor for the group and even gave Dustin relationship advice. He also remodeled the Byers' backyard shed and interrogated Will in Morse code to learn about Vecna's weaknesses, which included a trailer park, where Fred and Chrissy were killed.