Halfway through the 2022 season, the Pittsburgh Steelers are getting a long, hard look at the man they hope and expect to be their next franchise quarterback. Rookie first-round draft pick Kenny Pickett has started the past four games, going 1-3, and the one victory required Mitch Trubisky to finish out because Pickett had suffered a concussion.
While his raw numbers leave much to be desired—four touchdowns accounted for versus nine giveaways, a YPA under six yards, etc.—they and we have seen glimpses of the kind of quarterback he can be. And there is no ambiguity about what course they’re taking, quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan said last week according to Jeff Hathhorn of 93.7 The Fan.
“Kenny is our guy”, he quotes Sullivan as saying in an article for the outlet’s website posted over the weekend. “We feel good about him”, he goes on. “Kenny continues to improve. We know there are some growing pains that are associated with that”.
Are there ever.
Pickett’s lowest moment so far came two weeks ago in a 16-10 loss to the Miami Dolphins. He was given multiple chances to author a game-winning drive in the final five minutes, only to be intercepted twice. In spite of this, he did manage to drive the team down the field and pose a threat, but he failed to finish.
Even in spite of the numerous low moments—and certainly, there’s plenty of blame to go around when it comes to speaking about the Steelers’ offensive output as a while—if you look at him on any given play, you might well see a player who has the ‘look’ of a franchise quarterback.
“I think the big thing with Kenny is no moment has been too big for him”, Sullivan noted, and that’s certainly a part of that. Even the untimely interceptions he has thrown were in no way byproducts of jitters, for example. “He has a competitiveness and a fire about him despite what the circumstances are, what the score on the scoreboard is. No matter how the offense is having some issues. He’s continually going out there, competing trying to win”.
“There is a resolve, a grit, a determination, a fire to him that we like.”
The Steelers have only won once since Pickett has been in the lineup, though they have only won once before that as well. But the offense as a whole has not gotten any better at scoring points. Perhaps the three-and-out ratio and average drive length have improved, but if you’re not putting up points, it hardly matters.
Still, Sullivan and the rest of the coaching staff see a developing product who has the makings of the kind of quarterback they are looking for. He called Pickett “a supreme competitor” and added that he doesn’t play or present himself with “desperation or disappointment” in the low moments.
He conceded that there is some frustration, but played it off as healthy for a competitor. “Everyone here in this building is frustrated”, adding that they “ought to be”. And I have no doubt that there is plenty of frustration given how the first eight weeks of the season have gone. They couldn’t have been much worse.