Pickett And Pickens Listed Among NFL’s Preseason Winners

It’s a good year to be a Pittsburgh Steelers’ high draft pick. First the praise fell on second-round wide receiver George Pickens. By camp’s end, attention shifted to first rounder quarterback Kenny Pickett. Both grabbing headlines for all the right reasons. Pro Football Focus named them among the summer’s biggest winners. PFF outlined a winners/losers list for the preseason, with writer Sam Monson including Pickens and Pickett on the list. He wrote:

“Pickett has demonstrated he can speed up his process at the NFL level. After taking an average of 3.2 seconds to throw last season in college, he is down to just 2.5 seconds in preseason with an average depth of target of 5.4 yards. He will need to do more if he starts, but proving he can operate at the required pace of the professional game was a big hurdle to clear.

Meanwhile, Pickens looks like a legitimate No. 1 talent at receiver with the physical profile and hands to dominate immediately. He has caught five of the seven targets thrown his way (71.4%), including both contested targets.”

Over the pre-draft process, PFF understandably knocked Pickett for his slow snap-to-throw times, among the longest in college football. 3+ seconds in the NFL is borderline unsustainable, and only the most scramble-happy quarterbacks like Jalen Hurts sit above that threshold. In the opener, we charted Pickett’s snap-to-throw time at just 2.04 seconds. We didn’t do the same for last weekend’s game against Jacksonville and it appears Pickett’s times were higher. But he still got the ball out quickly and proved to be an anticipatory thrower. He’s checked every mark of fundamental and foundational quarterback play and looks ready to start the opener, though Pittsburgh is still most likely to stick with veteran Mitch Trubisky.

Pickens dazzled the first half of camp with one highlight reel catch after another. He made quarterbacks look better, the best compliment you can offer a receiver, and his ability to win jump balls and in contested situations was unparalleled this summer. He proved he was able to make those same plays inside stadiums, too. While it was a great summer and Pickens will have an immediate role in this offense, he did get a bit quieter towards the end of camp, and as we noted in our camp recap, there’s a couple areas of his game that must improve.

“He needs to create more separation on his intermediate routes, needs to be a more technical route runner and getting the correct depth (something Coach Jackson was on him about throughout the summer) and his release package could use work, too. He’s still a bit raw around the edges…”

Still, Pickens had a great summer, and with some coaching and refinement, he’ll be a stud.

The bulk of the Steelers’ rookie class offered positive reports. Third-round DL DeMarvin Leal is a high-energy, high-effort pass rusher with an array of moves he can win with. Fourth-round WR Calvin Austin also flashed before suffering a foot injury, while sixth-round TE Connor Heyward is an athletic pass-catcher and has shown well on special teams. Seventh-round LB Mark Robinson has serious sleeper potential and is a strong bet to make the roster. Only QB Chris Oladokun seems like a miss, a predictable one, but if that’s the worst part of the class, it turned out pretty well.

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