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‘I Gotta Protect The Ball More:’ Pickett Says He Needs To Cut Down On Turnovers

While Kenny Pickett wouldn’t be the first quarterback to have a turnover-filled rookie season, it’s not exactly a trend he wants to continue. Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Pickett admitted he needs to take better care of the football.

“I gotta protect the ball more,” he said via the team website. “Absolutely.”

Through his first five games, totaling four starts, Pickett has thrown eight interceptions and has a fumble lost. It’s an unsettling number and one of many reasons why the Steelers’ offense is struggling. On their good days where they’re taking care of the football, they’re a below average offense. Add in turnovers and the Steelers become one of the worst offenses in football, 31st in the league in points per game with their lowest scoring average since 1970.

But not all turnovers are created equal and Pickett knows the numbers look worse than the tape.

“I’m not throwing picks where I’m not seeing the coverage…whether it’s a tipped ball, there’s a few that they got me on but I’m processing it. I’m going to the sideline and I know exactly what happened, why I went there.”

Pickett’s first career INT came on his first career pass, a deep-ball heave downfield against the New York Jets. WR Chase Claypool lost out on a contested catch opportunity and the tipped pass was intercepted. Tipped interceptions have been a theme for Pickett this season with another coming late in Week 8’s loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Others lack context like Claypool getting his legs tangled with a Dolphins’ DB that led to an interception versus Miami in Week 7. He also threw a Hail Mary interception at the end of his debut in a loss to the New York Jets. From a “turnover-worthy play” standard, Pickett’s numbers are still strong. Still, having a 4:1 INT to TD ratio isn’t going to lead to a successful career and putting aside all the explanations, Pickett knows the interceptions must be cut down.

“The bottom line is I gotta protect the football. So that’s definitely something that this back half of the season needs to be a focus.”

Along with red zone performance, it’s one of the top numbers to watch for the rest of Pickett’s rookie year. In very simple terms, Pickett needs to throw more touchdowns, fewer interceptions, and the Steelers’ offense must put more points on the board. In the three games he’s played fully in, Buffalo, Miami, and Philadelphia, the Steelers are averaging a 1950-esque 8.7 points per game. No one should expect the Steelers to average 30 points per game the rest of the way but tangible improvement in all those categories would be a good note to end a bumpy rookie season on.

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