Few know Kenny Pickett better than Tony Racioppi. Pickett’s personal quarterback coach for the last six years, Racioppi was in attendance with the rest of Steelers’ Nation for Pickett’s debut against the New York Jets on Sunday. Joining 93.7 The Fan Tuesday morning, Racioppi talked about what he saw.
“I saw a lot of great things,” he said. “I saw a quarterback that hasn’t really taken a rep since the season started in practice. I think what you saw when he got in there was him. You saw his ability to process quickly, to see the field, to make quick decisions and throw the ball accurately with the anticipation, which he’s always done.”
Pickett relieved veteran Mitch Trubisky at halftime of Sunday’s game, sparking a Steelers’ offense that had only managed six points and continuing their pattern of underwhelming showings. After throwing an interception on his first career pass, Pickett led touchdown drives the next two times out, turning a 10-6 deficit into a 20-10 lead, though Pittsburgh’s defense collapsed in the fourth quarter and the Steelers lost in the final seconds.
For one half of play, Pickett went 10/13 for 112 yards with zero passing touchdowns and three interceptions along with two rushing scores. An odd stat line that makes him the first Steelers’ quarterback to have zero passing touchdowns, three picks, and two rushing scores in team history. Across the league since 2006, Pickett’s one of only two quarterbacks with such a performance, joining Buffalo’s Josh Allen who did so last year. But stats can be deceiving and the interceptions didn’t look at bad as the numbers may show. Racioppi makes the important point Pickett had hardly seen any reps since the season began – his first throw to Claypool was a little short but who knows the last time he threw a 50+ yard crossing route.
Racioppi praised Pickett’s ability to use his legs to his advantage.
“His ability to make plays with his feet. That one third and six or third and seven, and when things broke down, he got outside and got the first down to move the chains.”
Pickett was at his best on possession downs, going 5/6 on third down and 1/1 on fourth down. That created an efficient and sustained offense that put 14 points in essentially one quarter. He’ll almost certainly be the team’s starter going forward, making his first start on the road against Buffalo this Sunday. It’ll be a tough environment but he’ll have a week’s worth of preparation to get him ready and meet the moment.
Check out our review of Pickett’s debut at the link here.