Being in the conversation for the Offensive Rookie of the Year award is unusual for the 20th pick in a draft, let alone a second-round pick. Twelve NFL.com analysts voted for NFL awards on Wednesday, including Offensive Rookie of the Year. In doing so, Pittsburgh Steelers’ first round pick quarterback Kenny Pickett came in third with four votes, and second-round pick wide receiver George Pickens came in second with seven votes, narrowly losing to Saints rookie receiver Chris Olave’s eight votes.
The 2022 NFL Draft was widely regarded as a weak quarterback draft compared to other years. Indeed, Pickett was the latest first round quarterback drafted since 1997. Pickett came into a room with quarterbacks Mitchell Trubisky and Mason Rudolph, the former being a free agent-signee and the latter entering his fifth season with the team. Nor Trubisky or Rudolph are conceivably long-term options for the team. As such, many believe Pickett will get playing time in his rookie season, especially given that he was considered one of the more pro-ready quarterbacks in the draft. After impressing in the preseason, Pickett began garnering attention as a potential OROTY candidate.
While it’s plausible for Pickett to win the award, many things would have to go right for him. For starters, Trubisky appears to be the likely starter to begin the season, as he got first-team snaps in each of the three preseason games. For Pickett to even see the field this coming season, a Trubisky injury or benching would have to happen. Conversely, Pickett’s preseason outing showed that he developed chemistry with several of his teammates. One play that highlighted this was his negated touchdown pass to receiver Diontae Johnson. Being third place in the odds is a fairly accurate prediction for Pickett, who is also notably the highest ranked quarterback in the list.
On the other hand, Pickens being ranked over the majority of receivers in the first round as a second-round pick speaks to his talent and high value the team got in the second round. Pickens fell to pick 52, where the Steelers made him the 11th receiver to be selected. This unexpected slide was due to injury concerns with an ACL tear, as well as character concerns.
The Steelers, who have a well-known tradition of drafting receivers well, are believed by many to have done so again. Much like Pickett, Pickens steps into a stacked position room. The rookie will compete for targets with the likes of Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool. It is easy to imagine a scenario where Pickens exploits the double-teams that Johnson gets to carve out an OROTY season.
On the other side of the ball, T.J. Watt received just one vote for Defensive Player of the Year. Dallas linebacker Micah Parsons paced the field with ten votes while Rams’ DT Aaron Donald received five. Browns’ DE Myles Garrett also received three.
The Steelers 2022 draft class, at least initially, appears to have garnered league-wide attention and high expectations. Having an OROTY come out of this draft class would certainly make Steelers Nation excited for this new era in Steelers football.