Steppe Lancers partially suffer because they’re not great, but they also partially suffer because they’re just as hard to get into as knights, but knights are quite a bit better than them.
Which got me thinking; what if you could build an earlier version of the steppe lancer, available in the feudal age? That way you could execute a similar strategy to crossbows, only with cavalry, giving you a leg up in terms of speed.
You could call it a Steppe Scout, and it would have slightly better stats than the standard scout, but also a higher cost, plus, of course, the micro advantage.
Then make the upgrade relatively cheap; maybe slightly reduce the cost of the lancer to compensate, as well.
That gives Steppe Lances a solid niche as an alternative feudal rush to scouts. With some investment already in them, players might be more likely to continue to use them.