Though he currently sits third on the depth chart, at least in terms of snaps received, at OTAs, Pittsburgh Steelers’ rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett remains the cream of the crop at quarterback, at least in terms of his fellow rookies from the 2022 NFL Draft class.
At 24 years old, Pickett was considered the most pro-ready quarterback in the draft class, ahead of Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder. Now, he just needs to get onto the field. He’ll have to beat out the likes of Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph in training camp to do so, but even if he doesn’t and opens the regular season on the bench, there’s a great chance he sees the field at some point in 2022 as the Steelers officially kick off the Pickett era.
Once he sees the field, ESPN’s Mike Clay — a numbers-cruncher who also happens to be a strong fantasy football analyst also — projects Pickett to lead all of his fellow rookies in passing yards and touchdowns, which shouldn’t be much of a surprise, considering the situation he’s stepped into with Pittsburgh and the playmakers around him in Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, Pat Freiermuth, and Najee Harris.
According to Clay’s projection, Pickett will throw for 2,308 yards and 12 touchdowns, outperforming Carolina’s Matt Corral (1,931 yards, nine touchdowns), and Atlanta’s Desmond Ridder (1,791 yards, 10 touchdowns). Clay doesn’t project Tennessee’s Malik Willis (191 yards, one touchdown) and Washington’s Sam Howell (52 yards, no touchdowns) to see the field much, if at all, as rookies.
“This year’s quarterback class was viewed as one of the worst in the modern era. Only one quarterback came off the board in the first round — Pickett at No. 20 overall — and none were selected in the second round,” Clay writes. “Why does that matter? Because first-round quarterbacks tend to see the field relatively quickly. From 2011-21, 30 of 37 (81%) first-round quarterbacks took over as the starter prior to Week 10 — 17 (46%) even started in Week 1.
“Pickett very well could win the Week 1 job, but for now veteran Mitch Trubisky is the front-runner — and in this exercise Pickett is projected for seven starts,” Clay added. “His yardage projection ranks 19th and touchdown pass projection ranks 16th among first-round quarterbacks over the past decade.”
Clay’s projections overall — including the seven starts — seems rather reasonable, as the Steelers are expecting to compete at a decent level with Trubisky calling the shots offensively under second-year coordinator Matt Canada. At some point though, Trubisky is going to struggle and the calls for Pickett will become rather loud. When that is will be anybody’s guess, but Pickett is going to see the field in 2022, and will be the starter when that happens.
That’s just how these things work.
In those seven starts as Clay projects, Pickett’s projected final numbers average out to 291.14 yards per start and 1.71 touchdowns per game, assuming those numbers Clay projects only occur in his starts. That’s actually very promising overall. Were Pickett to start all 17 games with those averages, that projects out to 4,949 yards and 30 touchdowns.