Through three starts and roughly 12 total quarters, Pittsburgh Steelers rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett has had an up and down start to his career in the black and gold.
He’s shown impressive flashes of accuracy and touch on throws all over the field but has struggled with turnovers and pushing the football down the field. Some of those struggles can be attributed to receivers failing to make plays on the football, but he’s made some bad decisions throughout games, none greater than the two interceptions late in the Week 7 loss to the Miami Dolphins.
Still, there’s plenty to be encouraged by with the first-round quarterback.
Behind an offensive line that has had its up and downs in pass protection this season, Pickett is currently the best quarterback in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus, against pressure.
Currently, Pickett has a league-high 72.5 grade from PFF against pressure, and has an adjusted completion percentage of 81.5% against pressure so far this season.
“The rookie has acclimated surprisingly quickly to NFL pressure, reducing mistakes while taking what the defense gives him,” PFF’s Kambui Bomani writes regarding Pickett being the best quarterback under pressure this season. “Pickett’s 81.8% adjusted completion percentage on 26 pressured pass attempts ranks first among all passers. He’s also made only one turnover-worthy play on such throws, forming a turnover-worthy play rate that trails only Jalen Hurts and Justin Herbert among starters.”
It certainly helps that a lot of Pickett’s throws are short, quick decisions aimed at getting the football out, focusing on throwing short and hoping guys can run long.
Clearly that hasn’t worked very well this season, but it is encouraging to see a young quarterback like Pickett playing very well against pressure so quickly in his career.
He’s made some big-time throws against the pressure, has stood there in the face of it and taken some big hits in the process, but every time he bounces back up smiling and looks like the real deal, at least in that aspect of the game.
How well it translates moving forward remains to be seen, but in a year of transition behind an offensive line that still remains a bit shaky overall, seeing the rookie quarterback playing very well in the face of the pass rush is very encouraging overall, and he can only continue to build off of it, especially with him leading the league in the category ahead of names like Buffalo’s Josh Allen and Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes.